Sunday, July 18, 2010

Days I Wish My Sad Old Camera Worked

Rosy brings in the highly complex and intricate creation she has been working on for hours - a family of aliens made entirely from the contents of the Useful Box (aka recycling bin).
Posy comes in behind her, her head wrapped in a piece of paper.
'I am a lampshade,' she announces with pride.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Insanity Prevails

What you do on a Tasmanian beach holiday in Winter if you are completely insane.
What you do if you wish you were that insane.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seaweed Makes Me Happy

Yesterday I made myself very happy by renovating all my plant pots. I have two hanging baskets and five large pots that I call my 'mini farm'. I am not allowing myself any more until I can keep these ones alive and green over several successive seasons. It is absolutely the wrong season to plant seeds, but the poor pots have been neglected since the summer veg came out, and I needed some green to lift my spirits during the long winter. So I cheated and bought seedlings. Lettuce for salads, parsley for everything, tuscan kale for the secret ingredient in minestrone. Then I dug up silverbeet seedlings from the garden to save them from slugs and popped them in the pots too. A wonderful sunny autumn afternoon in gardening gloves with a bag of potting mix and a trowel. Heavenly. I think I will plant snow pea seeds anyway. Maybe the pots will be warm enough to encourage them to sprout. I have discovered that veg will keep growing throughout our winter with a fortnightly feed of seaweed concentrate and fish emulsion. You know you are a true gardener (or maybe just a slightly scary one) when the smell of liquid seaweed is all it takes to make you happy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pumpkin and Chocolate

Still eating the Mother's Day chocs. Not only did the Domestic Goddess make the chocolates, she also made the box, because she is the Origami Queen as well. I am grateful to be so loved.
Today I have the most fun and useful kitchen hint ever, passed on by the very clever and thrifty ladies on this forum. To reduce a whole pumpkin to manageable, chop-up-easily-for-soup size pieces, tie it up in a plastic bag and hurl it with force onto the nearest concrete surface. I did this on the pavers in our back courtyard yesterday, and it was so much fun. Usually, cutting up pumpkin is my least favourite dinner time job, and I'm always afraid I'll lose a finger, but this was hugely entertaining and very stress-relieving. Try it. You'll love it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day

One of the excellent traditions of my life is the late afternoon Mother's Day nap that I am required to take while the rest of the family run about cooking dinner for me. I am one well-cared for mother. So there I was, reclining in state, regarding my huge, overstuffed bookshelf. The Man built me this matching pair of six foot high bookshelves many years ago to rescue my precious book collection from its precarious plank and brick existence. Now, I have already decluttered this bookshelf but as I have discovered, getting rid of things is addictive, and there is nothing quite like the high of seeing bags of former possessions leave the house. I could see the books quivering in their little metaphorical shoes as they wondered who was going to survive elimination. So I abandoned napping and ruthlessly pruned four more bags of books out of my life.

What went:

Self Delusional Books: When exactly do I imagine I am going to Teach Myself Latin?

Books Only Relevant in a Past Life: I loved studying Anglo-Saxon poetry. Twenty years ago. I must face the fact that if I want to read Anglo-Saxon poetry in the future I am going to have to invest in an English translation. Also I will likely never reread Greek plays or the lesser known poetry of Chaucer.

Classics in Horrible Cheap Editions: When I am rich I will join The Folio Society and fill my bookshelf with beautiful classic editions. Until then I will go to the library.

Books I Inherited From My Grandmother That I will Never Read: My Granny would be the first to tell me to get rid of them. The remaining few that I love and treasure will preserve her memory as much as the twenty I will never look at.

What stayed:

'How To' Books Which Are Moderately Less Self Delusional: I am going to learn to make cheese. One day. Really.

Comfort Reading: The books I turn to when I am tired, overwhelmed, in need of something completely undemanding that I have read before a hundred times. Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer.

Books That Make Me Happy: Poetry. Anything with pictures of wonderful gardens.

Books That Make Me a Better Person: Anything by Elizabeth Goudge.

Books I Inherited From My Grandmother That I Also Like

Books That Belong to The Man: Spouse etiquette demands not decluttering the precious clutter of The Other.

So Mother's Day. All good. Possessions pruned, dinner on the table. And space on the bookshelf....

Friday, May 7, 2010

...And Here Is the News

Well, who knew? Twenty seven does go into twenty. The secret is in the garbage bags, the ones now reposing in the wheelie bin. Late night and early morning culling without the children was wonderfully recreational, then we tipped the contents of the rest of the drawers all over the living room floor, and the girls and I sorted and stacked with the aid of ziploc bags and a permanent marker. The only craft the girls regularly do now is cardmaking, hand sewing, knitting and beading, so I threw out everything else, and kept a tiny minimum of basics. Sewing kit, knitting needles, beads in the bead box, and all their card making bits in separate bags. Once we had an entire craft room, now four drawers, and two boxes of wool and fabric in the shed. I am such a happy woman. Each girl has their own drawer with current projects in. My drawer has the art materials that I don't want Posy to find - the charcoal, pastels and the blu-tack. Oh, the blu-tack. She eats it and sticks it in her hair. Oh, there are more art materials - we have one box of paints high up in the kitchen, a shelf of art paper, and a shelf of pencils and crayons. But that really is all. Not quite minimalism, but for us, the bowerbird family, a real step in that direction.

So that was the news. I know, if life was any more exciting...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Goodbye Craft Clutter

After a lull of two months the renovations are going to begin creeping upstairs, without, it has to be said, having magically transformed downstairs into anything remotely resembling living space. There is some arcane building reason why this is so. It is not entirely clear to me. What is clear to me is that soon we will also be without a living room, which means our family of six will be living in three bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, laundry and hallway. The hallway is where we will be storing everything from the living room. At the moment there is only room to walk down the hall one at a time, so downsizing even more is clearly in order. Our home office is my great uncle's old oak desk in the corner of the living room, with the family computer on top. It has seven drawers. In the hallway are two sets of old wooden factory drawers that house all the craft supplies. Twenty small drawers. The contents of the home office desk need to be transferred into the craft drawers. The craft supplies cannot be transferred anywhere else. If this sounds like one of those brain teaser puzzles, it is because it really is. I have not cleared out the craft drawers in years because it is really scary in there. Anytime anyone wants anything they rummage around in every single drawer to find it (or not) then shove things back wherever there is a tiny gap (or not). My hope was that the fairies would sort it, but to date, they have not. Bad fairies. Update tomorrow.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cruel Ironies and Happy Accidents

My family feel it is a cruel irony that the turnips self-seed so prolifically in the vegie garden, as opposed to, say, rockmelons. I have discovered that my turnip-hating tribe cannot detect the loathsome vegetable when mixed with mashed potato (cook and mash them separately, as turnips take longer), and hidden under a stew, or cut in small pieces in a curry, as long as there are identical pieces of potato to throw them off the scent...

Another garden surprise - the little girls endlessly plant 'gardens' in the sandpit with bits pulled out of the flower and vegie garden. Imagine their delight and joy when they discovered a flourishing patch of bean plants growing last week from some long vanished sandpit feast. Shades of Jack and the Beanstalk. That would explain why I haven't seen the cow around recently...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Manifest Incompetence

Do you ever have days where you wonder just what the Universe was thinking? I often question just how it was that I was allowed to become a parent. No qualifications, few relevant skills, no natural aptitude. All I can say is, the Universe is lousy at Human Resources.

Every day I am anxious at the decisions I make, at the possibility that I am messing up the relationship once again, or ruining the children's chances of success in some worldly sphere because of my many inadequacies in preparing them for life. Daily I am impatient and angry and I regularly think longingly of boarding school, not only for some peace and quiet, but because I am convinced that somewhere there are people, professionals, who could be doing a better job than I am.

Today all the girls have revolting colds, and I have abandoned them as much as possible to escape to the garden to weed the vegies and the jungle-like lawn. Such a relief to be out of earshot of the appalling sniffing and coughing. They have been cheerfully playing with Lego and reading, and are now baking germ-laden ginger biscuits, and thankfully I have only been recalled intermittently to adjudicate over Lego fights and Whose Turn It Is To Lick The Bowl.

If this sounds like a terrible, whiny moan, well it is. I am eternally grateful for my mostly healthy and happy petals. I just wish I had some Mary Poppins-like figure on hand to compensate for my manifest parenting incompetence..

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Small Joys

One of the small, enduring joys of my vegie garden is that it borders the path to the washing line. So that every time I go to hang out washing, or bring it in (about one hundred and fifty six trips a day, I swear), I can forage a mouthful of something delicious. At the moment there are cherry tomatoes, the last beans, wild rocket...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Lingering Goodnight...

Posy, listening to her Thumbelina CD: What does 'lingering' mean Mummy?
Me: It means to stay a little while longer.

Later on, at bedtime.
Posy: Mummy, will you linger a little with me?
Me, unable to resist such an offer: Of course my Posy darling. Linger, linger..

A very little later.
Posy: You can stop lingering now Mummy, your eyebrow is sticking up my nose.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


So I have a plan for this year. I have spent ten years planting fruit trees and perfecting my vegie garden, and I love, love, love pottering about and getting my hands dirty. Planting, pruning, all good but harvesting, cooking, preserving? Not so much. I would estimate that I would be giving away/composting about half of any given crop. Not such a terrible thing, but I also want to be more thrifty, use what we have, not spend so much on groceries. The Man says that the reason we spend so much on food is that I buy everything organic/local/free range and he prefers Home Brand marmalade anyway. I say yes, but you can't sell marmalade for $1.55 if you aren't using cheap imported labour, and anyway it comes all the way from Denmark, food miles anyone? He says even if it is made by underpaid Armenians, at least there is quality assurance as he rolls his eyes at the local marmalade which he is convinced is made in someone's garage. The debate continues.

Meanwhile, I know that our grocery bill is high because I buy way too much food because we might all starve if I don't lay in supplies enough to avert a siege. Then I don't cook it all, then I end up composting it and we have the most expensively supplied compost heap in Northern Tasmania (The Man hasn't been complaining about our grocery bill, by the way, because he isn't that silly/foolhardy. I have been appalled and he, as usual, is ready with a bright idea to solve the problem).

So, while vaguely resoving not to buy quite so much food, this week I have devoted myself to not wasting it. The gala apple tree is heavy with beautiful red apples (look closer and you will see codlin moth depredations, but it looks lovely from afar), so I have been chopping and freezing, and chopping and drying, and now that I have found some preserving rings (try the hardware store, who would have guessed? Aisle 5), I will be filling all the preserving jars as well. Of course, being Autumn now, everything is ripening at once and I also have tomatoes dropping everywhere, so I also made many jars of Grandma Joan's patented tomato relish. The really funny thing is that in my mammoth decluttering sessions last year I threw out all but one small basket of my enormous collection of Useful Jars, because I hadn't used them for years. So this year I have made plum jam and relish and now have run out of jars, and am begging them from everyone I see. Ironic huh? So be careful how you declutter. Thankfully, the universe is not short on glass jars, and has graciously provided.

Above is a batch of a very easy yummy dessert - layering thin apple slices across puffed pastry, slathering on a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, baking in a hot oven. Believe me though, my family is getting a little tired of apple based desserts. They are also beginning to dislike the word 'thrifty'.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Blue and Golden Days

I am really not a big fan of summer. Being hot makes me grumpy and unpleasant to live with (yes, I know we live in Tasmania, and that the mercury reached 32C er, once this year. But that is quite hot enough for me. You cannot imagine how grumpy I used to be in Adelaide in summer. Or the two years we spent in Broken Hill... in the end we moved to Tasmania mainly so that The Man would hear a civil word or two directed at him between November and March). Being hot and grumpy and having half the house pulled down around me made me even more unpleasnat to live with. Although having a very large hole in the front of the house is probably better in summer. But the Noise! (I feel like the Grinch here) and the endless layers of plaster dust and dirt coating every surface...we are about half way through our epic project (at some point we thought it would be amusing to tear half the house down and rearrange all the rooms so that almost every room would eventually become a different room...), but now, for a few weeks there is a blessed hiatus of peace, because last week our wonderful, if noisy builder, Sam, moved to France for a year with his family. And no, I didn't drive him away with my complaining. I am almost sure they had planned to go anyway...

So, some weeks of quiet before the next builder arrives. And the weather changed. One morning last week I woke to a slight chill in the air, and the overcast morning cleared to an exquisitely blue sky day, tiny puffy clouds, air like champagne, and then a long afternoon of golden light with a glorious apricot sunset. Suddenly it is Autumn. The garden has woken up, and so have I. This year will be all about gardening and cooking as a restful counterpoint to the noise/ dust/ mess/ running around hunting for tiles/ bathroom fixtures/ arcane building widgets that most definitely are not in Aisle 3 as promised...