Friday, 27 February 2009

Octopus Ink is Good For You!

I'm sitting at the computer desk, making final additions to the previous post concerning the (Wo)man in the Mirror and the Machinist walks in to give me a glass of water. In his other hand he has the bottle of Volcomin Forte, (which we both take at night) and what seems to be the largest tablespoon he can find in the cutlery drawer. Volcomin Forte is packed with minerals, which are received into the body on a cellular level, but it tasts morally offensive and wretchedly bad. I call it Octopus Ink. Actually .... it tastes like coal tar smells.

The Machinist starts pouring the Octopus Ink*tm into the ladle and holds it near my mouth. He has overfilled the ladle and the ink drip drip drips onto my shoulder. Without making eye contact, and no words uttered we break down in laughter. I swallow the ink, grimace, give the famous Maori open-mouth-tongue-hanging-out movement and shudder.

Ahh... True Romance. He calls me "Baby Girl". He's my Machinist.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

(Wo)Man In The Mirror

I don't often get angry and nag and carry on. It's a rarity, but when I do, I can feel my blood pressure rise, so to speak, and that's how I know that I'm in Angry Anderson mode... If I verbalise my anger, everyone is shocked and some - well - some kinfolk even feel the need to retaliate because they probably think the best form of defence is offence. Generally speaking, they don't get offensive often, because they don't feel the need to defend themselves often and ....

Oh, you get the picture.

Getting angry is simply no good for me. Nor is it any good for the person experiencing my wrath. It's not really their problem; it's mine. They may have done something improper or foolish and generally vexing, but the reality is - my anger at them or going on at them won't change the situation. It won't change them, either. Sometimes, situations arise that are very difficult and I despise the blame game, especially Family Vultures, because nobody wins and everybody becomes prey.

So I'm practicing a new form of yoga. It's called WOOSA

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could HaveBeen Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A ...
Change
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson

And on a lighter note, here's Michael himself:

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three ... Pies

The Machinist and I took a day trip the other day, for research and development purposes, and while doing so we were determined to cheat on our diets. We've been good diet children and have adhered to a life of restraint and deprivation for over eight weeks now.

The day was gastronimically planned; coffee in one village, lunch in another. Afternoon coffee in yet another, smaller village. We left home too late for morning coffee and felt as if our stomachs were about to turn inside out and eat us, just as the big and small hand joined forces at twelve noon. We had arrived at our favourite cafe in time, but on entering, it was evident there was no seating available. We took a walk. Returned. Still no seating an hour later.

One has to sacrifice a lot when doing research and development. For instance - having to test several pies from several different cafes, bakeries and patisseries.

Food testing is a really hard job, and some of us just have to do it.

Food testing is especially hard when you have to check the quality of burgers, fries, coffee, friands and custard pies served on the 11pm late shift at Mr MacDonalds ...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pensive

It's been so long since my last confession ...

Er - post.

Days have passed with my hair, limbs and clothes splattered with Weather Worn*tm and Domino*tm Dulux low sheen acrylic. I've been in a paint roller-haze; vertical strokes, horizontal strokes, a quick roly poly across the top of the gutters, a pat-pat here and there, (dents from oversized trucks that didn't quite make it under the awnings), finalised by a dab-dab with a 50mm paint brush. An overly paint clogged paint brush at that.

I'm a messy, messy painter, but I get the job done.

I've been thinking about the simple but precious things in life - most of all - the richness of family and loved ones. Maybe it's because of the constant reports of the Victorian bushfire victims and heroes. Probably, it is. Makes you appreciate many things. Painting gives you lots of time to wax philosophical. You become a machine. A bristle wielding machine, but also a thinking machine.

Tonight, on Animal Rescue, there were several stories of animals that survived the fires. One that stuck out was the plight of 'Henry', a ginger tomcat. Henry's paw were badly burned and his face was singed, causing his eyelids to swell like two sets of pink pucker lips. Fortunately, Henry's eyesight wasn't damaged. The vets on duty were trying to locate Henry's family. He was wearing a green kitty collar, embedded with fish shaped bling. This was the clincher by which his owner's recognised him. When his mamma walked into the surgery and started talking to him and stroking him, he instantly started purring. He couldn't see his mamma, but he knew her. His family had ten minutes to flee from their burning property, just enough time to pick up their children and run. Thoughts of what had become of their beloved pet had haunted them. No matter. As long as his family had a home, Henry would have a home with them.

As if this wasn't enough to open the floodgates of hot, salty tears, and block the nasal passages, Finding Your Family was on next.

But I won't go into that now. I'm off to schnuggle with the Machinist ....

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Singles Awareness Day

Sarah: "Mam, do you know what day it is today?"

Me: "Yes, it's Saturday"

Sarah: "No, but what day is it"

Me: "The Fourteenth February"

Sarah: "No. Try again"

Me: "It's Valentine's Day"

Sarah: "No, it's Singles Awareness Day"

Me: "What? Who? When? Where? How? Why? Say again...?"

Sarah: "It's national Singles Awareness Day. Fancy that, they declare the Singles Awareness Day on Valentine's Day"

Me: "What are you supposed to do on Singles Awareness Day?"

Sarah: "I'm not sure. Maybe feel sorry for the singles ...."

Me: Sigh....

Sarah: " I think Valentine's day sucks. Usually, couples are happy. They have every day together. They're happy they're together. Why do they have to have a day for couples? I think they should get rid of Valentine's Day. It's people like me - the sad singles they should celebrate".

Me: "Yeah. Ban Valentines day"

Sarah: "Get rid of it!"

Me: "Shoot the cupid!"

Sarah: "Yeah..."

Friday, 13 February 2009

Bushfire Emergency

There are so many stories coming to air about the Victorian bushfires - some heart-warming and some heart-wrenching. Many Australians have stood together, helped one another during this tragic time - the worst bush fire in Australian history. We all feel so deeply for the victims, and those of us who weren't directly affected are deeply grateful that it wasn't us. That's human nature. There's plenty of articles to read about the tragedy, but not much more to say, so I've enclosed some photos:





Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Painting

What do you blog about when you've had a couple of days lifted high up on a forklift, painting an old service station building? Do you write about which brush to use? How to hold the roller? How to prevent a skin forming on the top of the paint? Balance, as you stretch to cover as much area as you can, so as to minimise climbing down the ladder, moving the forklift to a new position and climbing up the ladder again?

There are many - MANY thoughts that go through my head, but remember them when I get home?

No chance.

More later....

Monday, 9 February 2009

We're Progressing!

The trees, bushes and shrubs in the front garden of the Shop / Metalsmithery have been torn down and taken away by friendly local council staff. The grounds look so much bigger, and I can't stop thinking about how I am going to landscape the 60 metre garden. A row of agapanthas? A line of spring blossoming quince trees? A burst of red hot pokers? A rock and native grass garden? A lawn? I'm so tempted to hook straight into this project, especially as the weather is much cooler, but I'm half way through something else. And don't you know - you have to finish one thing before you start another...

Eager beaver.

The Grands have been helping as much as they can. Granny sweeps the messes that are continually made and Grandpa keeps the cottage garden watering up, and makes me tea - even bringing it out to me in the late afternoon chill.

Everything is slowly coming together. There's still a lot to do, but we are seeing the progress.

I can almost smell the coffee... and taste the pies. Gluten free, of course.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Tales From Thrush Green

For those who love gentle, honest books, as I do, the Thrush Green series is a must read. It seems that dieting, for ladies, has been a constant issue throughout the ages:

Miss Fogerty was looking forward to her cup of tea and one biscuit, with more than usual relish. She was on a strict diet, and quite frankly, she felt all the worse for it. All meat was banned, all white bread, and sugar of any colour whatsoever. Anything made with flour was out, and dairy products were forbidden.


'Boiled water only for the first two days', John Lovell had said, his eyes alight with a fanatical gleam. 'Then citrus fruits for three days, and after that perhaps a small apple. Then we can get you on to vegetables, particularly pulses. Pulses are absolutely essential to counteract any acid in the system'.


'But I shall be absolutely bursting with acid if I'm on citrus fruit for days', exclaimed Agnes. 'I really cannot take lemon juice or grapefruit in any quantity. Even oranges upset me.'
~ Tales From Thrush Green - Miss Read ~

Miss Read, or in real life, Mrs Dora Saint, is a teacher by profession who started writing after the Second World War, beginning with light essays written for Punch and other journals. She has written on educational and country matters, and worked as a scriptwriter for the BBC. Miss Read is married to a retired schoolmaster and they have one daughter. They live in a tiny Berkshire hamlet. She is a local magistrate and her hobbies are theatregoing, listening to music and reading.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Pugsley Buzzard

There is a winery that we pass each time we take a trip into town, and in all the years we have lived in the country, we have never explored it. Today, however, the Machinist and I went out on a "lunch date" at the winery.

We sat in a temperature controlled room, lined with galvanised racks holding huge wooden wine casks and were carried away to another time, another place by blues singer, Pugsley Buzzard. On a forty degrees summer's day, this treat surely did the trick!

I could get used to dating the Machinist!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Scrumpage Apples

I plucked a large apple from the Ballerina apple tree today. It had a velveteen covering over it, which I smudged off with my thumb and forefinger. Then, by instinct, I rolled it on my dress to make it shine. To shine an apple is one of those unspoken, unfathomable rituals. I took a bite. A big bite. The skin was warm, as was the flesh. For a few seconds, there was a heady feeling of rememberance. That of my younger years, scrumping apples from the local allotments. (Scrumping: Brit. to steal fruit (esp. apples) from trees ). My apple tasted like the apples on my scrumpage, all those years ago. Pure and unadulterated Rosaceae-family goodness.

The Machinist was floating in the pool. I handed him the apple, and he took it and bit into it without question. Then he took another bite. And another. Silently, he handed me the core. It was already turning brown - due to the intense heat of the day. I tossed the apple over the fence and into the paddock, and wondered if another apple tree would one day spring up in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Summer-Brown Berry Coolie

We've had intense heat for over a week now. Unfortunately, outdoor chores don't stop, just because Mr Sun decides to turn up the heat. I'm convinced that the best way to face outdoor chores in the heat is to get up early, start work in the coolness of the day, to enable the body to get accustomed to the temperature as it soars.

Mam commented on how brown I am becoming. "... As brown as a berry..." she says. I've always wondered "What type of berry?".
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When we first arrived in South Africa from England, we lived on a caravan park for a while. Most of the families in the caravan park were Afrikaaner families with lots of children. I couldn't, at that early stage communicate verbally with the children, but I would run barefoot throughout the park with them. It was summertime, and the heat didn't affect me as it does now. Lots of sun, and swimming and before long, mam was saying "...you're as brown as a berry, Pooch..." **Poochie is my pet name**

I was starting to get the feeling that my newfound, non-verbal friends didn't want to play with me suddenly, and I didn't know why. Then one day, as I was running and laughing, an Afrikaaner child chasing me to 'tip' me asked -

"Are you a Coolie?"
"A Coolie? What's that?"
"Ag, jy weet..." (Oh, you know)
"What?"
"An Indian"
"No, I'm an English woman"
"Jy's nie a Coolie nie?" (You're not a Coolie?)
"No!"
"Okay...."

And even though apartheid loomed over us, from then on, I got my friends back again...

PS - the title of this post sounds like a cool refreshing drink for a hot summer's day...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Eggs

The Machinist loves to spoil our hens. "They give us so many eggs, Babe, they deserve to be spoiled". He gives them layer pellets and scratch mix WITH molasses. They love it. They lay their 'gifts' to us all over the hen coop, and the Machinist delights in seeking and finding them. Each day, twice a day, he heads off under the rose arbour at the bottom of the garden to the hen house beyond. Each day, twice a day, he returns to the house embracing a shirt full of eggs, catches our eye, and counts the eggs, rather audibly, as he places them, ever-so-gently into the porcelain egg container.

"One, twooooo, threeee ....... fifteeeeeen, sixteen!"

That's right. Up to sixteen eggs a day from nine Isa Brown hens (and who knows if any from the older two white-feathered hens).

Mind you, Number One Son can eat the eggs as quickly as the Machinist gathers them.

The other night we were checking out Youtube, and came across this delightful, endearing video entitled "Screaming Eggs". We had such a good laugh and are still quoting these poor chaps:


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Food for the Loved Ones

I have been given quite a few cookery books as gifts from my children. My favourite cookery books are those that have stories behind the recipes and how the recipe maker / creator came upon specific ingredients and methods to cook any particular dish. Oftentimes, the one common theme - the reason for cooking, and the effort in bringing the recipe to fruition is impressed upon me: the gathering of family and loved ones.

Food and family. Food for the loved ones...

More and more families are eating out, eating fast, eating junk and sadly, eating alone. There is much to be said about the family dining table, wherever it may be situated in the home. My desire is to have us eat together at the family dining table as often as possible. Food brings family together, but family need to sit together in one place, at the same time to create their own memories. When we go through extremely busy periods, our family tends to eat at different times of the day (and night), and the notion of eating together, in one place at the same time becomes a faded memory for a while. It is a constant effort to facilitate the family home-dining experience.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nutrition and how important it is to continually feed my family tasty healthy food, hearty and wholesome. It is so easy to fall into the rut of making quick meals with little nutritious value when we have been extremely busy or feel over-tired. I comfort myself with the thought that generally speaking, food in general is an important part of a balanced diet...


I must confess - food is always on my mind and in my daily planning. Whether I have to gather it, buy it, pack it, store it, prepare it, cook it, delegate somebody else to prepare and cook it or eat it. Sometimes fab or flop, and sometimes fast or feast.

"I've been on a constant diet for the past two decades. I've lost a total of 789 pounds. By all accounts, I should be hanging from a charm bracelet"
Erma Bombeck

Monday, 2 February 2009

The Kitchen Sink (More Than You Need to Know)

We have a stainless steel double sink in the scullery area of our kitchen; a deep main sink, and a smaller one next to it. We use the larger sink for pot and dish washing, and fill the smaller sink with bleach or disinfectant water for soaking the dishcloths. This is much more hygienic than using the dishwater to rinse the cloths in when wiping kitchen surfaces, as the dishwater contains a lot of grease from the pots and pans. Grease that sometimes cannot be seen floating, especially when the water is hot and soapy. It is so very tempting to dip the cloths in this prepared sudsy water, but submitting to this urge results in the countertops looking streaky. The grease particles are well behaved; they stay wherever they are spread - until the next wipe.

If you don't have the benefit of a second sink in your kitchen, a plastic bowl, the shape of your sink unit is an ample substitute. There are round and rectangular bowls available to suit the shape of the sink. Kitchen sink bowls are so handy - mobile too. The bowl can be filled with 'bench cleaning water', and can be carried around to each kitchen counter top requiring cleaning, while the sink is left to do what it does best; hold water for the soaking and later washing of dishes, pots and pans. Alternately, the bowl can be used for washing fruit and vegetables.

Many housewives in England used bowls in their kitchen sinks when I was growing up. It was a domestic tradition. If they had a round sink, they had a round bowl to fit neatly in the sink.

My mam still uses a bowl in her kitchen. She claims that if you place cups, saucers and other 'delicates' into the bowl, they wont have to mix with 'tougher' pots and dishes, which may cause them to crack. Items can be stored in the bowl in the same way they can be stored in the dishwasher. This frees up the sink and draining board and thus provides inspiration to tackle any necessary chore involving the kitchen sink.

Mounds of stainless steel, alluminium, pottery, porcelain, plastic and china, not to mention potatoe peel, spinach spines, carrot peel etc. are very off-putting. My personal experience with kitchen sinks has been a learning one. I have 'gleamed' much. As a newly wed I thought that if my sink was clean and shining and all gruesome looking food particles were cleaned off the sink, tap and draining board, that all was hygienically fresh. Not so! Occult microscopic life can still be present and in abundance. What I do now, (and which I have taught my children) is firstly, to thoroughly clean and disinfect the entire sink area. Then, give the base of the tap and water spout a 'towel rub' with the cloth (have you ever seen what comes off of there? It's like that song we used to sing - ".....red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue.....I can see the crud crumbs, see the slime balls, I wonder, can you, too?") After the rub, I drizzle clean water over this area. Even more crud slithers away - down into the sink. As I watch this, a childhood song comes to mind - and it is as if the goopers are singing the song themselves: "row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily down the drain, as Helen cleans and gleams". Off they go -down the plug hole! And just when I think they've all surrendered, another lost soul sets sail, down to the depths of the grease trap; via the grey water rapids....

After the 'sinking', I like to use my tea towel to dry the taps, spout and sink area so that it shines. Ready for the next shift....

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Summers Past

This month is supposed to be the last month of summer in Australia. My thoughts today are of summer days in South Africa, as I was growing up. It was a shock to the system to leave the icy cold of Britain, straight into the heat of Africa. At first, we could hardly breath in the hot air. It was like sitting in front of the hearth with your mouth open, inhaling the radiant heat from the open fire. A complete meltdown.

Our family would often exclaim ".. i'n't it 'ot..", as we passed each other throughout the house. It became a family mantra. One would think you would tire of saying it, but no. Like most things in life, though, you eventually get used to it.

Those early days in a strange land were spent on a number of farms, in different directions - just out of, but surrounding a small town in Natal. Most of them had 'Kraals' on them; homes to the domestic and farm staff that worked on the land or in the farmhouse. These workers were always happy, contented people, who smiled a lot and sang a lot. They would dance, too, on their way down from the hill, through the dry creek bed, up to the homestead for each day's labour. Their children would sometimess accompany them.

At that time in South Africa, apartheid reigned, and the white children were forbidden to speak with the black children. Our family never observed this, though. The black people were human beings; with different lifestyles and customs, but they laughed, cried, bled and died, just like we did. The Bantu children taught me Zulu ditties, and would chuckle with glee when I sang them in my British accent. We hardly understood each other's language, but we laughed hard and often.

A popular African singer in the 1970's was Margaret Singana. Her smile alone could light up the veld (field). Here she is, singing Mama Thembu's Wedding Night. Take it away, Margaret