Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You know time is creeping up on you like a thirsty mozzie when ...


  • you put some clips in the front of your hair to get the fuzz off your face and you acquire brand new wrinkles around your eyes
  • you wake up one random morning and find you have transmogrified into Richard III overnight, complete with asymetric hunch and nasty attitude
Kevin Spacey, the Old Vic's Artistic Director, stars in the Sam Mendes directed 2011 production.
Though p'raps not the Kevin Spacey version because you look crap in shoulder pads.
  • "jowly" is a word that enters your visual vocab
  • your husband quietly abandons the thought that he will ever have a flat stomach again and starts buying low riding jeans
  • shaving your legs makes them so dry you have no choice but to grease 'em up afterwards
  • you and your partner do an audit of elderly relatives and realise you may have to attend 25 interstate funerals over the next 20 years
  • you are facing (probably) a decade more of PMT and the glories of the blood without having any further functional use for that particular set of innards
  • your parents think you are lying your ass off when you claim not to be dying your hair and you just worry that they must be too blind to drive if they can't see the colonies of greys up there
  • you have been with your partner for so long you can't quite remember why you wanted one and subsequently, chick lit seems tediously self-involved and unreadable, and
  • your daughters are so disappointed with your trenchant lack of glamour they are determined to make their way to the painted, high-heeled and sparkly land without you.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dancing in the summer rain

Well, we had a little rain today.  Aside from one other big storm it has been a mainly dry spring and summer.  Summer rain is delightful.

We had just finished bike riding down by the lake.  I was walking after the little monster who has just learned the two wheel arts.  We were about to go back to the car when it down came in buckets.

We all sheltered under the awning of a kiosk but it just kept bucketing.  One monster couldn't stand it.  She started doing laps out into the rain getting just a touch wet - a little wetter with each lap.

Eventually the desire built up in me too and I joined her.  We went to the edge of the lake and commiserated as it got wet.  We stomped in puddles.  We looked down drains.  We danced.

Not us but you get the idea.  Doesn't it make your feet itch?

We both turned into drowned rats.

Meanwhile, my husband and other monster stood under the awning getting stressed in their own way.  This monster was getting worried about how we were going to get back to the car and it was all too much.

The little wet duck was starting to shake with cold so we peeled off her cotton top and put on her (carefully preserved) dry polar fleece.

I then headed off through the pelt to the car, after all, I wasn't getting any wetter.  After wading across the lower car park that was doing a cunning imitation of a floodway, I got to the car and drove to the others.  We whacked the bikes on the car and went home for lunch.

I am very glad I have grown myself a playmate for summer rain.  It was lovely.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mission accomplished

After four long years I have finally finished painting the hall.  When I started both of the girls were toddlers - now leggy schoolgirls.

February 2009 - the saga begins with painting the ceiling.

This is not to suggest I have been at it all that time with, say, a toothbrush.  The application to the cause has been a little gappy.  Nevertheless, I feel proud.  It may take my arms a week to recover and my pysche some months but the job is done.

This is the older monster from the beginning of the hall-works.  She found the whole process so fascinating she spent her "rest" getting out all the sheets and spreading them around the floor of her bedroom, then conked out part way through.

Well, almost.  There is just the removal of rags and tape, etc to do. Sounds like husband-work to me.

All I have to do now is paint:

  • the rest of the gutters, a job my husband left 2/3 done when he returned to work in 2011 (mind you, given the painting he did on all the rotten steel window frames, he deserved a medal)
  • the older monster's room, which still has the marks on the ceiling where I removed a large fluro light when I bought the house 12 years ago, and
  • the little monster's room, because if the older monster gets actual colour rather than the usual boring beige, the whines of "that's not fair" will be heard quite a lot.
Well, that lot should take me through to 2021.


*  Said with a mix of hysteria and sarcasm - an unusal tonal combination.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ventilated cat a talented spitter

The cat has been recently ventilated.  Luckily I realised there was trouble at mill early in the piece and we visited the vet, both unwillingly.  She was not keen on the box, the journey or the prodding - especially the thermometer but I can see her point.  I also have a philosophical objection to having strange objects shoved up my posterior.  I was merely cringing at the devastating potential of the bill in these delicate budgetary times.

The sum result - cat lost fight, cat has holey abdomen, cat needs pill twice a day.

The bill was not too bad.  We will just have to sell one of the girl's spare kidneys, leaving one to sell on another rainy day.

Now my husband, being a courageous man, has agree to take on the bitey end of the process a mere 8 years into our relationship that has roamed across two cats, one of which had a very pilly old age.  I now do the bit that stops her furriness going backwards or inserting her front claws into he-who-is-about-to-be-bitten.

My favourite part of the process is when the husb. has her jaws clamped shut, willing the little oofie to swallow.  Meanwhile, Toast has a mulish look on her face in between mouth movements that are designed to move the pill to just behind the front teeth where it can be spat out as soon as the husband gives up his clenching vigil.

Oh, what fun.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When your arms fall off

I am finally near the end of a seemingly never-ending cycle of painting the hall.  Following a six week break over Christmas and school holidays, I have three down and only one painting day left in this job.

The only problem with taking a break while I was riddled with feral children is that whatever arm and shoulder strength I had gained last year dissipated under the combined effect of too many pavlovas and heat-induced sloth.  Ah, summer!

My arms now feel like they are made of pink blancmange during a 7.5 Richter scale event.  At the end of a painting day, my hands shake so hard I could use them to whisk eggs.  I certainly wouldn't attempt to carry a hot drink unless I was in the mood for burned hands and cleaning the floor (which I never am).

You see, I am the possessor of a tremor at the best of times but unusual exercise drives my arms crazy.

I am in a mad struggle to finish the job, not just because we are extremely sick of having the usual contents of the hall and the painting bits distributed around the house.  I am such a lucky little duck I am starting jury duty next week.

I wonder what you can wear to increase the chance you will be discarded from jury selection?  A tea cosy on the head and bras on the outside maybe?  Is it too late to develop a major twitch combined with an intermittent pained yell?  If only my tremor was more extensive than my arms.  Poop.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A vomit girl and a Costco jolly

Well, the girls have been back at school for two weeks and we have our first little gift from the education system - a vomit girl.  She is currently sleeping off her latest bucket-filler while I write the shopping list and realise I will not be able to do anything on my task list today.

The poor little mookie.  I had to practically decant her into the car (with bucket) so I could get the other girl to school.

In unrelated news, I went on a jolly to Costco yesterday afternoon.  I have never been to Costco before and what a pleasure it was, too.  Some thoughts on the cultural treats awaiting me there:

  • The pizzas are indeed very large.  Just larger than my oven, I estimate.  I was not tempted.
  • There are an amazing number of products that involve glueing popcorn and nuts together with sugar, fat and salt.
  • If a refrigerated "dessert" has a used by date over six months ahead, check the ingredient list.  If there are over 50 ingredients, laugh and move on.
  • The mens clothing appears to be built for very short men.  I do not wish to see my husband's belly button in the ordinary course of events.
  • I have developed a slight fixation with how many 500g packets of cheezels it would take to fill the interior of a car up to the windows.  I may need to buy an older car with vinyl seats and floor mats before I experiment.  I am sure the bright orange dust would never come off grey upholstery.
  •  Some people must eat a lot of cheese. 
  • A 30 pack of cornettos for $32 is a tremendous bargain but I am not sure if I would be a happier person if I ate them.  Rounder but probably not happier. 
Classic Blue Ribbon Flavour Vanilla Choc Nut
Not six - 30 of these things.  30, people, 30.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Summer footwear of our childhood - a comparitive guide

I was mostly raised in the hills around Adelaide.  The summers are long and hot.  I had thick skin on the bottom of my feet because we tended to not wear shoes.  I did once burn large blisters through the many skin layers walking on black bitumum when it was over 40 degrees (104 F) but generally we were barefoot.

Now my tender-footed husband grew up on a farm.  He wore gumboots all year round, even when it was stinking hot - especially when it was stinking hot. His calves are relatively hair free, I suspect because of gumboot friction.

Why this gumbootage?  Well, in winter it was the mud.  There is lots of mud in natural dairy country.

When summer had finally dryed out the mud there was a new reason for gumbies: snakes - lots of 'em.  Tiger snakes, red bellied black snakes and the odd copperhead.  These range from highly venomous to extremely venomous.  Thumping around the grass in the paddocks or the dams, especially near grain or silage that attracts rodents, they met their fair share.  He accidentally stepped on snakes and fortunately (though not for the snake) broke their backs.  He also had a number of episodes when they were under or inside the (extremely gappy) house.

Living in a mostly suburban area, though near a large native park, I had only a little snakeyness in my life.   We would occasionally see a brown or black snake (the black tiger snake - no pretty red bellies for us) if we were walking through long grass.  There were tiger snakes, death adders and copperheads around but we never met them.

Our next door neighbour's cat SamFred (or maybe FredSam - who could tell - they were brothers) once met a brown snake in our back yard.  The snake won.*  SamFred was lucky to escape with only passing paralysis and a nasty vet bill.  The snake had probably run low on venom laying out the mice living in our recycling heap.

A similar cat to SamFred and FredSam: may they rest somewhere they can never torture basset hounds again.

I remember having my heart leap a number of times when I caught sight of a reptilian face.  Then a blue tongue would flick out or I would see a leg and go, "Whew - just a sleepy or blue tongue lizard."

Who wouldn't love me?  I eat snails and flowers and am just lovely.

We used to think that if you had large lizards you didn't get snakes but I suspect that is rubbish.  If I was a snake I would think a lizard is a very conveniently shaped meal.

Getting to the point, several years ago my husband and I were walking in the park near my parent's home on a nice hot day.  We were wearing sandals and walking along a footpad through tall grass.  I stopped because a brown snake crossed the path ahead of me.  They are pretty shy and it was going about its snakey business.  I thought, "What a pretty snake but it needs some space."  My poor husband, whose snake history is much busier and more intimate, nearly had a fit.  I bet he wish he had brought his gum boots.

*It is hard to have much sympathy.  SamFred and FredSam operated as a two-member bikie gang.  They worked together to torture the other neighbourhood animals.  If you ever need a sound effect for a nightmare, I highly recommend the sound of a basset hound screaming in fear as it was bailed up in a small tin shed by two Siamese cats.  Poor Cindy.  She was a dopey dog but didn't deserve that.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pregnant with hickeys - an inadvisable office combination

When I was pregnant with one of the monsters I worked in a open plan office.  I worked part time because I had a toddler with a limited tolerance for child care.  I also liked to take a large amount of sick leave to deal with snot and earaches (the child) and extended bouts of vomitatiousness (both of us).

Nevertheless, I did attend work occasionally.  I shared a super-pod with 3 other people: a woman in her early thirties with two children; a young woman and a young man, the latter two both single and around 23.  You probably can see where this is going but read the title and think again.

I had an enormous amount of experience at the job at hand.  The elder of the woman had different experience and the two youngies were just young.  Part of my role was to help all three to learn how to do this sort of job before I disappeared back into the world of nappies and sludged carrot for the duration.

I was a number of years older than the other three, and possibly because of personality differences and my very solid presence, just seemed more mature.

One morning we were all sitting there facing each other talking about some work doobie with another very young woman from a related work area.  The woman opposite me, the one with the children, said, "Have you got a hickey?  You have something all over your neck."

Now I am sure she did not really think I had a hickey.  I think what she meant was, "You have a somewhat awkward coffee stain or mark on your neck and I am going to embarrass you because it looks a bit hickyish."

After all, I was a very sensible woman.  I was 7 months pregnant and certainly did not look like the sort of person you would bite.  But frankly, one of the few advantages I found with pregnancy (other than the eventual acquisition of a mewling infant) was that it made nookie an easy, hilarious, sure thing.  My husband, being a very sensible man, was taking full advantage of this state of affairs and had got a bit carried away in the neckular region.

If I wasn't so bloody exhausted I may have remembered to hide it.  Or maybe not.  Who can be bothered with that sort of rubbish when you are trying to get a toddler to childcare before racing to work in time for your regular morning spew?

So I said, "Oh, yes." and left it at that.  The other four almost combusted with embarrassment.  I mean, elderly, heavily pregnant and showing signs of being the subject of unbridled lust.  How weird and disgusting is that?

I still laugh about it, even though the other person there at the time is now a giant among 5 year-olds.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The hell that is covering school books

For the first time in the lives of my tender offspring they have brought home school books that need a cover on them, STAT!  (I have no idea why people say that in hospitals when there is a hurry on but it seemed apprope.)

Anyhoo, two girls = a gazillion books.

How much cover do I need - measure, measure X (a gazillion) = metres of the stuff.

Go shopping.  Shop all out, look at empty shelf surrounded by cloud of other desperate, hovering mothers.  Try another shop.  Masses of covering stuff purchased.  No bananas this week because I spent all the money.  Bad luck, monkey girls.

Sit down with book mountain, ruler, scissors and covering.

Measure, measure, cut, cut, put around to check - oh bugger, missed by that much*.

Crumple up and throw out.  Oh bugger.  If that wasn't so damned crumpled I could have used it for a smaller book.

Moving on, measure, measure, cut, cut, check size, peel off backing paper, get sticky bit attached to arm, depilate arm removing sticky bit, sticky bits stick together, reluctant to come apart, roll into ball, cursing and swearing and throw it into bin with now hairless arm.

Start again, measure, measure, cut, cut, check, peel, stick, "How the hell did that bubble appear?", push bubble, "How the hell did that fold appear?", "Who cares!", tuck in the edges and finish the thing.

Repeat X (a gazillion).

Wake up sweating, accidently kick cat leaning on my leg, retrieve pillow from floor after feeling around in the dark, take slurp from glass hoping the cat has not beem there first and contemplate the hell that is coming tomorrow when I actually have to do this task.

Tickle cat, flop back down and hope to dream of grown-up children complaining about having to cover their children's books.

* Said in a Maxwell Smart accent - sense of humour still holding out at this stage.

Addendum: 13 seconds of research later, there appears to be some mothers who have a slightly more professional approach to their mothering duties.  I highly recommend this woman or this one (with a helpful video) if you find yourself in a pickle, though I wouldn't peek if you are at all prone to feel inadequate or half-arsed.  Bring on a stiff gin, I say.  Don't hold the limes.

Addendum 2 - the ginier one.  Whatever you do, don't follow those links.  If you are reading my blog you are probably not psychologically prepared to watch a video of how to fold fitted sheets.  Don't do it, people - maddness will follow.  Aaarrrrgggggggg.  I warned you, I warned you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Eating sea lice and a centrepiece for a zombie feast

I have watched several bits of the new Masterchef series.  (For those foreign or non-TV types, it is usually a show that gets non-chefs to cook things in rather silly circumstances*.)  The new series involves actual chefs and it mostly consists of people doing what they usually do at work.

In light of this tele-boredom, the husb. and I thought of some tricksier cooking challenges that could be inflicted upon these cheffy types.  Voila...

Test 1.  Start with a bewildering collection of ingredients (the entire range of food additives in identical jars but all unlabelled**, parsnip seeds, and sea lice, etc) and an array of unusual equipment (an industrial furnace that gets hot enough to melt glass, a centrifuge, and mould-making equipment used by makers of artificial prostheses).

Gee, you look tasty Mr Louse.

Then get Heston Blumenthal (that crazed munchy-imagino artiste) in to compete against the contestants and give them all 8 hours to make a large, edible centrepiece for a zombie feast.  It must be at least 8 foot high and should not explode on contact.

A team of expert judges should be specially assembled, all between the ages of 14 and 18 and who have watched "Shaun of the Dead" at least 11 times***.

Test 2.  Make a vegetarian feast featuring tofu for a group of C-grade rugby league players for their end of season dinner.  (Think big big blokes hoping to eat 1/2 cow and a pig each to go with the odd drink.)

"Eek - vegetables - run away!"

Test 3.  Make a savoury plate using only 5 ingredients including both broccoli and pickled herring for a group of 2 year-olds in child care centre.  It must be served at 4 in the afternoon when the little pips are a sliver away from exhausted hysteria.  The pips then get to vote on which one was the nicest.  If every child refuses to try one of the offerings, that chef is immediately eliminated.

Oh, yeah, that strong, pungent goodness is going to go down a treat with the toddlers.

This last test may have the advantage of wiping out all of the contestants.

* For goodness sake, Dalai Lama, what were you thinking?

** This would include literally hundreds of bottles of identical white powders.

*** Did you know that the US Centre for Disease Control has published a graphic novel on preparedness for a zombie invasion?  These things make me happy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Crazy Pink Fluff, or is that Blancmange?

Further to the wonderful world of culinary dogs, last week I had a recipe that required 20ml of evaporated milk.  This left me with 390mL left in the tin.  Now I don't know about you but I never use evaporated milk.  What the hell should I do with it?

As in other cases of culinary desperation, I turned to my mother.  Apparently, if you cool it in the fridge, make some jelly til it is just about to set, then whip the milk then add the jelly, you have instant fluff, or blancmange, or whatever you want to call it.

Well, I made the jelly but I was somewhat inattentive and missed the "just set" stage by, say, a good 24 hours.  OK, lets go backwards a bit and whack it in a sink filled with warm water to soften it up.  Does jelly re-set?

Then beat the milk.  Will it beat up?  You betcha red pants it will.  Huge and fluffy.  Add the jelly, bit more beating, and I have a big bowl of pink fluff.  I tried it.  Kinda boring and pointless - like artfully arranged pink air.

Ah, but I am not a 5 or 6 year old girl.  Lets try it on them.  Hmm, not a resounding success.  This stuff is so damned fluffy, after a big bowl you feel as though you haven't eaten at all.  And it made a lot - did I mention?

So, several days go by with pink fluff served on various things - pink fluff on peaches, on strawberries, on a ham sandwich (not really but I was getting a bit desperate) and I still have more fluff.

Don't tell me it's magic fluff, like that bloody cut and come again pudding of my childhood.  No, there is just so much of it it seems to be reproducing.

Eventually I just chucked it in the sink - let me tell you pink fluff is a bit of a bugger to get down the drain hole.  Reluctant to flush, if you get my drift.

And that was the adventure of the pink fluff.  I bet you wish you were me.  It is so exciting I can hardly stand it myself.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Attempted attitude change fails miserably

Having sworn and cursed about the lunch box blues in the previous post, I decided to get all positive and motherly via the construction of apricot and oat muffins.

I didn't have a recipe for apricot and oat muffins so I buggered about with adapted another recipe that had no apricots and no oats.

Oats are dry so I thought I would add more milk and eggs.

There turned out to be only 1 egg so I put in extra extra milk.

There was also a surprise canola oil drought and I couldn't use peanut oil without attracting the wrath of the schooling system, so I used extra virgin olive oil.

The mix came out kinda runny so I added more flour - spelt flour - world renowned for it reluctance to rise in a cakey manner.

So to the taste test:  curiously olivey, a bit flat, plain in flavour and overall, weird.

One of the monsters has already stated she doesn't want them in her lunch box and prefers a piece of fruit.

Arrgg, not tomato - I hate tomato. It's yucky.

As we move inexorably towards the commencement of the school year (18 hours, 11 minutes and counting), my mind turns to the vexed issue of lunch boxes.

Now I don't know about you but those articles that appear in a myriad of printed matter with lunch box suggestions and recipes piss me off.  I am not about to make zuchinni muffins and tuna slice just for lunch boxes.  The worms at the school worm farm are already suffering fatty livers from overfeeding.

Only 40 minutes to prepare, people - the worms will love it.

One of my monsters is almost certain to pass on anything that is not a cheese, hommus and lettuce sandwich.  On a good day, you might get away with substituting green capsicum for lettuce.  Three years ago we started a long war of attrition with a cheese and nothing else samo and we have been fighting in the trenches since.  Great strides, people, great strides.

The other monster will rotate randomly through unwelcome items to be removed and discarded, including any veg, meat, or, in fact, the bread itself.  About the only items certain to be eaten are salami and anything sufficiently coated in tomato sauce.  One day cucumber is verboten, the next day, munched unnoticed.

When I was a child I knew one kid who ate a roll with honey exclusively all the way through primary and high school and another kid in year 10 who was meeting his mother at the school gate at the start of lunch period to pick up his freshly made banana sandwich.  Every school day.  For eleven years.  Personally, I think his mother needed more help than he did*.

Looking back into the dim dark ages I suspect I was just as annoying.  I remember my mother asking if I liked my sandwich one afternoon and I said, "What was it?"  She said, "It was mock chicken - I was trying out the recipe."  "Ah", I said.  "No wonder I couldn't recognise it.  I threw it out."

Of course the monsters dream of a lunch box filled with supermarket lunch box food - crunchy things that pretend they are not chips, grainy bars held together with sugar, and little tubes of "yoghurt" that have a much closer relationship with colour fixers, thickening agents and antioxidants then, say, a cow.

Strap on your helmets, soldiers.  In a another 17 hours and 29 minutes we are going over the top and it's ugly out there.

*Treatment for a rampaging separation anxiety, one assumes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Giving up hausfrauing

I have been a full time hausfrau (h.f.) for two years now.  It started as leave from work but eventually I had to quit when it became obvious I was not planning to return any time soon.  Toodle pip windowless dusty office and giant piles of crappy correspondence.

Generally the time has gone by without much consideration of the different roles of working part time with my children in child care and being a h.f.  In some respects they are both shitty and in other respects, both good options.  You get a closer relationship with the munchkins and a slightly less crazy life if you are there to apply medicinal peas to new bumps, but you get career respect, intellectual stimulation and a healther budget if you work and parent.  Mind you, you also get to hang washing on the line at 9pm when the temperature is about 4 degrees Celcius - here's a tip - wear gloves.

Ocassionally it does hit.  About six months ago I decided to go the whole hog phone-wise.  I went to a shop to sign a contract.  Imagine the shock on the young woman's face when she asked me about my income and I said "Zero, zip, absolutely none at all", times several repetitions because the concept was a terrible struggle for her.  I had not thought of myself as indigent but if my husband hadn't been there to mention his income (and keep those sticky, button-mad monsters away from the handsets), I might not have gotten a phone at all.

In my BC (before children) life, I had no problems with buying a house, car or whatever.  The monotonous regularity of my income made me an object of delight to drooling debt providers.  Mind you, they were heady times in the financial sector.  It seemed for a while they were applying the "upright and breathing" test to debt applicants and one out of two would do. 

I think the thing that narks me most in the h.f. role is the way my husband and my opinions of myself have changed.  I think my husband forgets that I was once sharply dressed and sharp in mind.  I have such  informal, faded attire and a brain full of library book day, he has forgotten I ever looked a bit scarey and was considered so in my profession. 

I think much the same transformation has happened in my head.  As time is spent colouring-in princesses and nagging about hand washing, my confidence in my professional capacities has faded.  It becomes hard for me to remember a time when people would seek my opinion on difficult issues, rather than just whether they should wear a t-shirt under their dress today.  And that last question was really just a request to check the weather on the new phone.

So, even though it is a crappy and difficult balance to manage, I am going to attempt the part time work while motherising gig again, this time aided by the regular application of children to the schooling system.  All I need to do is get them there (come on Monday) and find some work before we are completely broke.