Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Meat Pies Part 2

We didn't have to be in Australia long (a weekend) to find out that it's national food is meat pies. Usually, with tomato sauce. In the early years of life here, tomato sauce was handed out freely with the purchase of a meat pie. Nowadays, tomato sauce is extra. Consuming a meat pie in Australia, put simply, is simply a messy affair. I don't think anybody can work out how to correctly open a sachet of tomato sauce. No matter how much you think you've got each brand, each packaging mastered, you're proven wrong. Crumbs and stains and a facial essence of vinegar, with shreds of flesh on the side (of your teeth!).

Raising little Aussies the right way is teaching them to eat (and love to eat) meat pies. It's tradition. I taught them young. On one particular occasion:

"Could I have four steak and kidney pies, please?"
"Would you like sauce with that?" (we all know she meant tomato sauce. No need to clarify)
"Yes please"
"Help yourself to serviettes" (she knew the mess they would make)

With that last instruction, I loaded one child with two pies, another with same and the third with tomato sauce, knives and forks (even though I knew they wouldn't be used. It's polite to take the cutlery, even though we all know any self respecting pie lover would not use it). I then grabbed sixty serviettes and directed the chillens to a table outdoors.

It was cold and windy and the table was wobbly. Serviettes were flying away quicker than I could tuck them into tops, or place them on laps, or lodge them under plates. A toy had been left somewhere on a previous errand and this was causing extreme woe and somebody needed to pee. NOW.

I began relating a story, to distract the luncheoners. A story about a man in England who would bake the most delicious pies. My mam had told me this story years ago. I couldn't remember the whole story. Just the gory bits. I related how this man would creep out at night, find some unsuspecting victims, kill them, take them home, chop them up, mince them up, stew them, put pastry on top of them and bake them.

Their eyes grew large, as they caught their breath....

"Did people eat the pies, mummy?"

"Oh yes, they would eat them and think they were so yummy and go back for more and more"

"They ATE the pies with people in them?"

"Yes, they ate them and this man who made the pies became very rich"

My middle daughter screwed up her face and looked down at her plate containing the partly broken pie with a trickle of gravy oozing out of the pastry shell. I knew she wouldn't be eating lunch that day.

"What happened?"

"Well, somebody was eating a pie and they found a finger in the pie".

All together now "Yuuuuukkkkkkk".

It was a long time before middle daughter ate another pie. Today, however, she is a self confessed meat lover. Oh, and she actually watched Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, without even a flinch.

Nor is she scarred for life.

Go Aussie!!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Meat Pies Part 1

We discovered Alpha pies during the first year of our marriage. We seldom afforded them, but when we could, we splashed out and bought two pies AND a custard tart - to share. Alpha pies were always memorable; they were made with the tenderest steak (no gristle or giblets), and the chunkiest pieces of kidney. I was never sure what type of animal donated the kidney, but I knew it wasn't chicken kidneys. One chunk would have been a whole chicken kidney, and chicken kidneys were not square.

Alpha pies were made with puff pastry, which would always crumble and end up on my 'breastlplate'. Flakes that didn't end up ON my breastplate, would end up BETWEEN my breasts.

The buttery pastry would always stain my clothes, too. There was no chance of sneaking and scoffing an Alpha pie on my own; the Machinist always found out, and I was convinced in those early years of getting to know him that he was psychic. His knowledge of my solo pie eating extravaganza would almost - well - anger him .

When you bit into the Alpha pie, the meaty, herby gravy (sage, perhaps? Definitely cracked pepper...) would trickle down your chin and dollop onto your top. There was no way of stopping this, nor did you care to stop it; devouring the pie was all consuming; there was no stopping or saving some till later. Once the first bite was taken, it was sound doctrine to finish it.

Word travelled fast and Alpha Bakery soon became famous and made a killing on their steak and kidney pies. They made other scrumptious pastries too, but the savoury pies were the money spinner. Visitors from far and wide would stop and stock.

Alpha Bakery and Alpha pies were happy times, and our relationship lasted for many years.

Not long before we left town (and the country), we noticed that the quality of Alpha pies was deteriorating. During mastication the steak would be rubbery, gristle-y and giblet-y! The pie was also void of kidneys. We would joke that you never quite knew what was IN the pies. Each one was different, had a different texture, a different amount of meat, a different type of meat.....
The situation with Alpha Bakery, like a lot of other aspects of the country at that time (1986), was more fodder that fed the conviction to migrate to the "Land of Milk and Honey"

Monday, 28 January 2008

Hands, Knees and Oops-A-Daisy





"Doll, - quick! Quick", urged the Machinist, as I was about to cook him some 'just done' scrambled eggs. I ran through (yes, you read that right - ran) to the front room, extremely aware and cautious of our front door being unlocked. (At at any given time, young or old homo sapiens have entered, without so much as a knock).

I gingerly lifted the lace curtain, not wanting anybody to see it move, as I was STILL in my silky slumber number.....

The sounds of merriment and clapping (albeit out of rhythm. The clapping, that is) were evident before I caught sight of what was occuring. Then I saw pillar box red 'something-ma-bobbies' doing just that; bobbing up and down. Mid morning sun was bright and it took a time to focus....

The Machinist, on my request, took some pics to show you. Here's four of our virile local lads, pleasantly (you should have seen them jig) ENDURING a photo shoot in all the habiliment of days gone by. They've written a song about our village (once rampant with bushrangers - some more notorious than others, some just plain mean) and this was their chosen publicity gig.

Watch this space for updates and news concerning our very own celebrated, song-writing, shimmying quatro....

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Australia Day 2008

Australia's National Flag

In 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Until this time, Australia used Britain's flag, the Union Jack. A competition was held to find the design for our own flag. Five designers shared the prize because they came up with similar ideas for our flag.


In the top left hand corner is the Union Jack. This shows that Australia is part of the British Commonwealth. Beneath the Union Jack is a large white star with seven points. The points represent the six states and the territories. Originally this star had six points. The seventh point, for the territories was added in 1908.


On the right hand side are the stars of the Southern Cross. The southern Cross was chosen because it can always be seen in the Australian sky at night.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Communication

The Machinist and I had terrible “words” this morning. Over something silly, of course. Like the PHONE. I’ve asked the Machinist on many occasion that if I receive a call, to please take the number of the caller, or a message. I don’t expect the Machinist to – well – leave his machines and come and look for me, just to hand me the phone. I could be anywhere on the home block, and hiding and seeking could easily break his momentum – and – gasp – motivation. Being the good guy he is, it isn’t often that he’s done as I’ve asked in this regard, and continues to call me / look for me when the phone rings for me. It’s not often that I receive calls via our business phone. I always request email contact, or I give my mobile number, as not to disturb the smooth running of the workshop and those who work therein.

I was going through pictures of our workshop on hard drive, with the aim of selecting some for this blog and our new Metalsmithery website. The Machinist came through the door, phone in hand..

“It’s ....... for you from ......”

“Can you take a message for me?”, I asked. This was sort of pushing it with the Machinist, because he had left his momentum behind in the workshop, passed the distractions of our pet Cockatoo, Bucko calling from his cage, almost legged over the two ‘shadow dogs’, fell into the front door to make his way to me and my HP Touchsmart. But... I hadn’t thought of all his trevail when I asked this of him. I was just so miffed that this person had phoned, after I had asked for email contact, and I hadn’t even had the chance to consult with the Machinist about the issue. Email gives one TIME to THINK. Phone communication doesn’t.

The Machinist got mad. I got mad and then I cried. The Machinist went back outside...

Later, I heard his footsteps in the house again (I know each family member’s footsteps. I know the pace they take, the pressure they put down on their feet...). Suddenly, I could see him out of the corner of my eye, and not ready to talk with him, I kept my eyes focussed on the screen. I saw his hand slide onto the desk and deposit something next to the mouse.

“Here’s something to keep you company”, he said, and then he was gone.....




Did I tell you how much I love the Machinist?


TEMPERED STEEL

Tempered steel
in furnace burns
golden crimson fire
beaten bandied
folded too
emerging stronger yet.
So must our love be tried
furnaces fired
with passions belows
tested
tempered
tried again
emerging unbreakable.
A worthy life long quest.
~ F Michael Sigler ~

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Garden Tour Part 2

More clearing of the hard drive....


This is the view from the back fence, (which the Machinist has cemented into the ground, to prevent snake invasion. We get Tiger and Brown snakes in this area). I just love the trees; they remind me of 'tree prophets of old'. They've probably got a lot to say, if they could talk. We're told, by knowledgeable environmentalists, that salt (yes, salt) did this to them. Apparently, salt rose to the surface and killed the roots.



Another view from the back fence. This is looking into the willows, where there was once (many moons ago) a piggery. I wouldn't mind that now. Imagine.... little piglets running around. "Babe, Babe, where are you?"


Raspberry canes, dancing with apples...


Looking up into the Ballerina apple. The branches are so heavy with fruit - hence - the peek into the sky.


Eldest daughter's artwork. We didn't know what to do with it, so we put it in the garden. Looks sort of creepy, like a shrine or something. I'ts not meant to be. Although... seeing those apples that the cockatoos rejected (John West trained them well), makes one think of sacrifice. Yikes!

Fig tree. We planted two. One thrived, the other is being rather lazy. Reminds me of Eden...


This rose cost me $5. It was established, in a pot, but I didn't know what colour it would be. So glad it turned out like this. Delightful. I'm told that this particular rose is called "Peace". Peace.


Some more of the half eaten and wasted apples, semi-raked together for pickup, before the pesky fruit fly attacks. From one pest (cockatoo) to another....


Nashi pears. Have you ever tried one? They are so utterly juicy. You get a river of Babylon running down your jowls when you bite into them.


This is the garden in the middle of the orchard. Somewhere in there, is a crimson rose. Somewhere in there are lavender and rosemary bushes. Somewhere in there are lots of marbles that Number One Son and - ahem - others catapulted, in efforts to rid the trees of thieves (Australian birds).

Oh, there's many more photos of the garden, in different stages. Rather overwhelming, though, for those who haven't got one green limb (nor an inclination to own one) in their body.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Garden Tour Part 1

I've wanted to show you our garden for a while now. A dear friend reminded me the other day to still stop and smell the roses in between all the busy-ness of having a business at home and a family to rear. I had recently been out to take photos of the garden, walking through the "lanes" and "arbours", "tunnels" and "walks". Quite timely to put them here for you to see.


One of several plum trees. I planted these trees in such haste on a drizzly September day, that I forgot to take note of each species. There are multiple lists of plantings in my "Garden" folder, all smudgy and muddy, and I'm supposed to know each of them, but if I don't keep the lable, I'm lost. Both of my daughters and the Machinist have this thing about keeping lables on any type of merchandise. They say it's uncouth and looks dastardly. I'm mindful of this, and was obviously super mindful of this when I planted multiple trees several years ago. Dork.


This is one of the white grapes, interplanted with a fennel, which has gone to seed. I love it when plants go to seed. Except weeds. I planted one red grape bush, one white grape bush. One red grape bush, one white grape bush - all along the pathway which runs the length of the Workshop. The fennel plant just sprung up out of nowhere. I didn't PUT it there. It just grew. I really like the way it look, though. And the way it smells. Each time I use the side door I can't help plucking some of the ferny-type of leaves from the thick stems and rubbing them between my fingers. Reminds me of Bassets Licorice Allsorts...


Aaaah... Our very first season of pears! I had promised the two pear trees (a pair of pears), that if they didn't fruit this year (almost 10 years of my patience!), up they come. Obviously, they listened, and although there are only a few pears, there are - well - still pears. And I love them for it...

Here's where the grapes entangle themselves with the damsons. Whispy rogue tendrils wrap themselves around the damson branches before I can stop them and train them to take another route. The damsons don't seem to mind, though. Maybe they like the cuddles?


Faithful, oh so faithful quinces! How I appreciate thee... By the way, your jelly is scrumptious. Maybe not so sweet next time.


I well remember the day I prepped and prepared the herb garden. Barrows full of festy manure and loads of flies buzzing around my head and sweat pouring down my back and a hot, red face. I hate sweating. After a fortnight, (time enough for the amonia to break down), I planted seedlings of all the culinary herbs we use in the kitchen. The Machinist had cut several 10cm pieces of white polypipe to surround the herbs (so the snails wouldn't get at them). They took ages to actually look like they would survive. Probably because I over watered them on a regular basis. As you can see, survive, they did!


I don't know the name of this shrub and I planted three of them - very close together. They are so huge now, that they are competing with the rambling roses, to grow up and drape themselves over the arbor. Each morning, on his way to work, the Machinist has to walk sideways down "Rose Tunnel", as to avoid the onslought. Especially when it has been raining. He's wet through by the time he gets to work (less than a one minute walk), and contemplates returning to the house to change into something dry. (yeah, right) Other mornings, unidentified spiders have spun their webs and whoever passes through first, fights their way forward, arms outstretched bearing imaginary Panga knives, akin to those used by Dr Livingstone.


Another faithful "giver". The trusty crab apple tree, shown here in the forground with pink rambling roses to the side, and monstrous rhubarbe leaves in the background. Oh Crab Apple, you taste delicious in sweet and sour chutney.

Green plums. When can you tell if they are ripe?

More on the tour later....

Attention Seeking Men

The Machinist and I love to have coffee together. The Three Young Adults love to have coffee with us, too. Even when they don't fancy a cup of coffee, they like to listen in on our conversations. They're nosey. There is constant competition between the Machinist and Number One Son (we call him this because when he was a baby, we bought him a bib which read: Number One Son. He's our third-born). As I was about to take a sip of coffee, Number One Son (NOS) walked into the school room (a room still called the "School Room", even though no school is held here), slightly crouched over to the left, and holding his left wrist with his right hand.

"Mam, have you got anything for burns?"

"What have you done?"

"I've burned myself with the welding rod..."

Then from the Machinist: "C'mon. C'mon, you're not soeking about a tiny burn. Are you?"

NOS had a cheeky smile on his face. "But it's SORE, Pappie"

"Huh, that time I burned the top of my leg, I didn't get one ounce of attention. From anybody. C'mon, get back to work and don't be such a baby!"

NOS ambles out of the schoolroom.

Then later, he returns with the first aid kit and an ice pack.

"Mam, do me a favour? Would you tie a bandage around the ice pack" he chuckles.

I'm not very good at fixing up sores and scrapes and burns and the result of this endeavour was a huge wadding of white, mummified wrapping around NOS's wrist, complete with an over-exaggerated bow. NOS disappears and returns within a few minutes.

"What did dad say?" I ask

"He's still moaning about the lack of attention he received when he burned himself and wants to know where I'm going now..."

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Organising the Mosquito Mosque

It's really strange 'cos you start blogging in one year, and end up in the next and the time just blends and you are oblivious as to whether you are writing in current or past tense!

Mam and I have been doing a lot of sorting. We emptied each and every bin in the schoolroom cupboard and made the *required* organising piles to give away or throw away. New labels were made for each bin and there is a great sense of satisfaction in an orderly storage system. You almost don't even want to put your hands on any of the items within the bins, lest you put them in disarray. We now have bins containing computer disks, files of guarantees for every appliance we own, sewing in progress, sewing notions, pumpkin festival information, household hardware (hooks, eyelets, tacks, nails, brackets etc), craft, paints and numerous other items.


While I thought mam and dad were sleeping the other night, they weren't. Their bedroom light was on at about one in the morning, so I went to see what was wrong. Mosquitos had invaded their room! Dad was frantically searching for bug spray, while mam was lashing out to squash any mosquitos in her reach. Eventually, we had to use the dreaded mosquito coils, and now, the whole corridor smells like a mosque!

Ahem... Mosquito Mosque....

Hey, happy new year!!!

Love

Helen