Thursday, December 31, 2009

Excuses, excuses

On the one hand, the oven has been repaired and I tracked down almond meal at the nuts-and-pulses stall at Prahran Market. (Does anyone know anywhere else it's available?) On the other hand, the forecast is for 38 degrees and it took several attempts to make Toll House Cookies rather than Toll House Cookie Slice Sort of Baked Stuff Totally Filling the Baking Tray.

If we baked, Cheekus Weekus would help rather than playing on the Wii and Running Boy would probably help too, if running electrical appliances was involved. Princess Pea would drift in to reality from being lost-in-a-book, currently New Moon. But then they all like to play Sport Resort together and surely that's good sibling togetherness that should be encouraged while it lasts?

It would give me a chance to show my best friends, who are superb cooks, that I am not a total loss to baking. It would also give me a chance to prove conclusively that I should stick to soup.

I would gain the high moral ground by involving everyone in a Good Family Activity while the CFO is out having the pool pump repaired (the latest appliance to fail), so that I can then lecture him, or at least know that I could lecture him, about putting the kids in front of the TV while I am at work/out doing needful things. They might just all look at me blankly and whine about the Wii turning off.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained...I will try a flourless orange cake!

Oh and by the way - a post or so ago I said the guinea-pigs loved hiding under the pool blanket. They're not aquapiggies: the pool blanket is spread out over the back lawn for cleaning and ariing before we install it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas-tree cake

Christmas is done for another year. Very little socialising, partly becuase we're tired and partly because we're not terribly good at it. Cheekus Weekus and Running Boy found Santa's stash under our bed but RB had the good sense not to make any comments and CW accepted my explanation that they were toys "for other people". Princess Pea got a Ripstik and can more or less use it. The guinea-pigs got a pot of grass that Running Boy grew for them. They're free-range by day which means that they spend a lot of time under the pool blanket we just bought from friends. (The pigs wriggle little ruffles up into a tunnel network and scutter about.) The tads got extra lettuce. Fred kept on sleeping in his/her coccoon. Our tree looked wonderful, we bought new tinsel and brought out all the special decorations the kids have made.

It took three separate Christmas meals to see all of the various sides of family on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day and today was just for blobbing.

We are also eating our famous icecream cake, an adaptation of a recipe by John Lethlean. Buy a paper Christmas-tree baking mould - we get ours from The Essential Ingredient. Let a small tub of vanilla icecream go all runny. Chop Toblerone into small pieces. Previously we've used about two-thirds of a large block but this year almost all of it went into the mix. Cheekus Weekus was in charge of chopping and got a bit carried away, although he was canny enough to save one triangle for himself. Add roughly chopped pistachios - about half a cupful - and a cup or so of raspberries. You can also use mixed berries, just don't put too many in. Really large boysenberries don't work too well. Stir everything into gloppy icecream, place the mould on a baking tray to catch leaks and pour it all in. Allow to set overnight. This year we added chopped jelly snakes, which the kids loved but I didn't. We all agreed that very large pieces of Toblerone aren't the good idea one might expect them to be.

Season's Greetings to you all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Running Boy's Medley relay team made the Little Athletics State Championships on time results, by a squeak. He's been very excited for weeks. It was on this afternoon at Olympic Park.

He went to the Crystal Creek aths camp to prepare and came back happy, exhausted and lobster red. I have never had a child peel from sunburn so we were horrified, but eventually accepted his tearful protests that he really had put sunblock on and that the kids weren't allowed outside without sunblock. (We think he must have waved a finger's worth of block at himself first thing in the morning no repeats. He's since been terrified enough with tales of skin cancer that he now seems to be doing the job properly.)

After long delays - the timer was off meaning lots and lots of false starts - he ran his heart out. I was at the final straight and I shouted. My voice is a rasp now. Running Boy was fourth (last) runner up in their heat. He chased them down from fourth to second, he cleared by a metre and was moving up to take the leader. His leg twisted fifteen metres out from the finish! Thank God he didn't fall. They missed the finals by half a second.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Moz

Possibly I was very naughty in a previous life, or perhaps I have been poor at assisting old ladies across the road.

In the year we have lived at this house, the dishwasher failed (on its second use), and was so bad that the repair-man wouldn't even take a callout fee. He told us to junk it. The tumble-dryer died. The (two year-old) washing machine danced its death across the laundry floor. An electric heater (new that winter) decided that "off" was discretionary. A pipe burst in the solar pool heater, sending a glorious waterfall down a bedroom wall. Two notebooks and a desktop computer stopped working for no particular reason, and a new laptop never worked at all. The DVD player would only operate in black-and-white. After two repairs, the mechanic conceded that possibly our ice-cream really was like concrete, rather than me being a silly fussy woman, given that the freezer insisted on setting to minus thirty degrees. (To compensate, the fridge section was keeping meat and dairy nice and warm.)

The door fell off the oven one night while I was hosting bookgoup. This really didn't bother me too much as it was so filthy that I had refused ever to use it. (The vendor appeared not to have cleaned the house at all between auction and settlement. More on this another day.) It did bother me though that the inner heatproof door on the new oven shattered into tiny pieces two months after purchase.

But worst of all? On Saturday morning I found that a kamikazi woodbeetle had self-immolated in the water-level window of the electric kettle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


On Monday I walked past the King's Domain gardens woolgathering. There was something odd about a man ahead of me, but I couldn't think why. He was medium-tallish, wearing a red-and-black rainjacket, monk's-tonsure bald, unremarkable.

Something small and white in the middle of his head bobbed gently up and down in time with his walk. It wasn't so small as to be hard to see. Once you saw it, it was impossible not to keep on seeing it.

Should I have run up to tell him he had a fluffy white feather stuck to his scalp?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

*&%^&$ maggies

We now have fewer tadpoles than hatched out, we believe, although it's hard to tell because they dive to the bottom of their box and hide in muck. This is probably because our backyard magpie family have found them to be a quick and accessible protein source. We find them to be amusing little bumblefats which more or less blunder onto their food (frozen shredded lettuce) and into each other. Running Boy plans to build some sort of Frog Empire from generations to come.

I am extremely law-abiding and these were not "taken from the wild" (which is against the law in Victoria). We acquired them when we bought a pond plant to combat the riotous algae our fish werre struggling to swim through. I read somewhere that algae grows because the water doesn't have enough oxygen, and the solution is to get more below-the-surface pond plants. The algae is still flourishing because the plant had frogspawn attached and I didn't want bubby tads to become fishdinners. It's the truth, your Honour.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Which we are Interrupted by Greywater

We live in a house that is tatty and tired, but very conveniently located and on a relatively large block. It's our fourth renovation and fifth or sixth house in 17 years of marriage.

The occupants are me and my husband, The CFO; our kids Princess Pea (Big), Running Boy (Mid) and Cheekus Weekus (Small):

four fish; four guinea pigs:

Fred (our silkworm), about 64 tadpoles and several thousand slaters (mostly Armadillidium vulgare) The Weevil Who Lived In the Mandarin Tree has now vanished. So have the inchworms big and small - I think going in for show-and-tell on "Letter I" day was too much for them, even though they were duly returned to their grapefruit tree.

When we moved in, the garden was mostly thin tanbark at the front and ivy-and-junk-trees-right-on-the-fenceline at the back. All of this was effectively the only barrier, and the neighbour's large dog was an enthusiastic visitor, so before very long we had nice new high boundary fences. In turn this led to sowing lawns and planting things riotously as if we had spent the last three years in an inner-suburban terrace with a modernist architectural carspace as the only outdoor area.

Melbourne is still in 3A water restrictions . We soon found that riotous planting + 3a means putting a plug in the laundry sink, shoving the outlet pipe from the washing machine over the sink, keeping an ear out for sloshy water sounds and many frantic dashes with buckets. Luckily, there is a lot of laundry to be done. Unluckily, overflows are common. Maybe we should move the un-hung paintings and prints from the floor next to the laundry...?