What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: January, 2013

Things to do on a Houseboat

You’d be surprised how many things there are to do on a houseboat.
Laps. The kids discovered very early that you can circumnavigate the boat due to narrow ledges along the outsides. You can vary this by going counterclockwise or over the top. I had to put my foot down at climbing through the windows.
Counting jellyfish. The Moose said he had to stop counting because his tongue was sore, but he said he got up to six hundred. They’re quite large, and I expect to see Spongebob in amongst them with his net. We wonder if they’ll sting, but no one wants to volunteer to find out.

Fishing. There was great excitement yesterday afternoon when the fire bucket made a bid for freedom. A houseboat isn’t very nippy on its feet, so we made several circuits of it before we got close. It was taking on water and starting to look very sad before the Moose reached it with the boat hook and dragged it safety. His greatest triumph.

Reading. While others look at the scenery, I’m reading a fascinating book about the history of double entry accounting. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it, it’s excellent. Called Double Entry, it’s by Jane Gleeson-White, go and buy a copy now.
And finally, steering the boat. It’s a bit exciting, there’s a handsome wooden steering wheel and no rudder, just a tiny engine off the back. So when you first start out you make series of elegant swoops across the river, it takes some time to get used to. However, we’re not going too much faster than a snail with the ague, so not too much harm can be done.
Now Ho for a buoy for the night. We’re not very good at dropping anchor yet, I’m surprised no one’s lost a finger.


Houseboat Holiday

My dear husband planned a holiday for this week that he wouldn’t tell us about. I suspect it was because it was an outing I would purse my lips about, and he was kind of right.

I guessed it was a houseboat when he said there would be no power points and a gas fridge, and when he started collecting together fishing gear. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that I should have brought more alcohol. Then I wondered which child I’d be compelled to throw overboard first? But after we’d talked the office into giving us more pillows and doonas and toilet paper, it started looking quite cosy. “What do you think?” asked Captain Casey (actually, he’s a Lieutenant Colonel). “Aargh, I should have brought rum”, I said. “And a parrot”, added the Horror.

There are plenty of nooks and crannies in which I can hide from the kids on the boat. The kitchen is far better equipped than the cabin at our last holiday. I’m looking forward to seeing my plus six foot husband cram himself into the minus six foot bed. We’ve just done a circuit of Dangar Island, which looks very pretty but would be an annoying commute. Now we’ve stopped to fish, and I’m wondering how long it’s going to take the kids to notice the rocking motion of the stationary boat and throw up. They’re fairly excited about possibly catching something edible, or a jellyfish, so may not. It doesn’t bother me.

It may not be so bad after all. Aargh, me hearties.


The store cupboard is looking a little bare, so I thought I’d ask the kids what they’d like by way of biscuits. Then I thought, save my breath. They’ll want snickerdoodles.

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from one in The Good Cookie, by Trish Boyle. Being an American recipe, it makes lots.

Cream together 180 grams of butter with one and a third cup of caster sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a tablespoon of some form of syrup. The original recipe suggests molasses, but I found that to be a little distinctive for the Australian palate. I use maple syrup, but you could also use golden syrup. I don’t use golden syrup because it features heavily in other biscuits I make a lot of of. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. I sometimes buy my eggs from AC Butchery because they look excitingly free range. These ones were large and very very white, even the yolks were really light coloured. They are indistinguishable from Swedish models. Mix in two and half cups of flour, one tablespoon of baking powder and a quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg. Actually, I don’t measure the nutmeg, I just grate in a fair old sprinkling with the trusty Microplane.

Roll balls of mixture about the size of a walnut (in its shell) and dip them in cinnamon sugar. You make up cinnamon sugar by mixing a tablespoon of cinnamon with a quarter of a cup of caster sugar, I like to keep some on hand for cinnamon toast. The dough is quite sticky for biscuits, but that’s correct. Place them on baking trays lined with baking paper and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about sixteen minutes. Keep an eye on them, you only want the tiniest amount of brown. These biscuits are quite soft on the inside, which means that my husband won’t eat them, and the kids tell me that they’re not as nice when they’re crisp all the way through. Know your audience!

Before on the bottom, after on top.

Bondi Junction Westfield

My children have unexpectedly taken a shine to tennis camp. It’s a little unbelievable, actually. It’s close, cheap, you don’t have to book. The kids don’t even have to cross a road to get there. So I found myself today, for the second day in a row, unexpectedly child free. Yesterday I did a great deal of washing and made a rather ham fisted attempt at attaching a spring to our side gate. Today I thought, bugger it, I’m going shopping.

Junkies, as my sisters affectionately call it, is always a little closer than I expect, I feel like it should be miles aways. It’s a lavish and complicated mall that I like to go to a couple of times a year, just to see what rich people are wearing this season and what the Eastern Suburbs are up to generally. I can tell you that nose piercings appear to be going mainstream, I saw a number of otherwise conventional looking women sporting them. Some of the piercings looked rather new, or in need of some antiseptic. I was very pleased to spot not one, but two moustaches waxed on the ends, both accompanied by natty little goatees. I saw a young woman teetering along on a spectacularly high pair of bright red platform shoes. I had to hold my arms firmly behind my back to resist the urge to push her over. And quite a lot of very smartly dressed grandmas who had obviously had the kids dumped on them for the holidays, kids in the eastern suburbs use a lot more product in their hair than the scruffy lot around here.

There are many shops in this mall that are fun to wander around, and also some fairly useful ones, unlike the complete waste of time that is my local mall. The useful ones include the Cancer Council shop which I visited to buy myself a white zip up rashie. I had one of these handy items, but I put it on the balcony to dry at our last holiday and it saw its chance and flew away to freedom. I also bought the Horror a long sleeved rashie to replace the current one that has caused a circumference of tan to form around his midriff. They have one of the few Nespresso outlets in Sydney, so I stocked up on Indriya and Livanto. The purchasing method was very odd. You could join the line that went out the door. Or you could present your club card to the lady who looked like an air hostess at the tasting desk out the front and she would take your order. I’m not sure why she couldn’t then just duck into the store and grab your capsules, but she told me the procedure was that I hang on to my receipt for half an hour and come back to collect. Whatever. I had many more sparkly things to look at.

There are all the big designer stores that never ever have anyone in them except the sales girls who all look like over made up praying mantises. I can’t believe anyone can really walk anywhere in Jimmy Choo shoes, I think you’d put them on to pose a bit, then slip back into your ballet flats. I love Metalicus outfits and had a lovely browse in there, but I’ve got enough clothes for the moment. I went to David Jones to look at Bobbi Brown lipsticks. I got one on sale at and shorty afterwards managed to buy exactly the same one again, also on sale. I was sure that there are other colours than Plum Rose, and if I’m going to be wearing lipstick all the time from now on it might as well be a nice one. Isn’t it funny that if you want to buy shoes at David Jones you get treated like a bothersome semitransparent insect, but if you go to the makeup department they seem to have found some humans to staff it? The girl at the Bobbi Brown counter was so nice and helpful that I almost didn’t mind paying over twice the price of, and besides, I’m sure they don’t stock the colour I bought.

Well, that’s my shopping itch scratched, and all in under the two hours they allow you to park there before going for your wallet. Good clean fun and not as scary or discombobulating as Chatswood Westfield. I may have to pay for my jaunt by wearing the ankle boot again tomorrow, but it was all worth it. Besides, I’m seeing the physio on Saturday, she’ll put me back together again. It’s good to have a team of professionals keeping me moving.

The Kale Review

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I bought kale the other day. I kept hearing about it, it seemed like a Good Idea to try it. It’s also excitingly curly and, the deciding factor, rather cheap.

I had my first second thought when I got it home. All that exciting curliness makes it take up a great deal of space. I managed to squash it down sufficiently to cram it on top of the cauliflower in the crisper drawer where I left it with its thoughts for a couple of days.

My second second thought, which would make it my third thought, came when I started looking for recipes for kale. It turns out that kale is one of the Loony Foods, like spirulina and goji berries, and my old favourite, activated almonds. How did I not know this? People talk about adding it to their diet, rather than just eating it. A worrying number of recipes had the cheery addendum that “they won’t even notice they’re eating it!”. Surely not a great recommendation for eating the stuff. I did see a vaguely tempting recipe for kale chips, which involved washing them and drying them (yawn), tearing them into palm sized pieces, laying them out individually on baking trays (dear lord), spraying them with oil spray and sprinkling them with kosher salt, then either baking them on high for fifteen minutes, or baking them on low for two hours. Or doing them in a dehydrator! Then eating them immediately, because they go soggy fairly rapidly. I bar any recipe that takes thirty times longer to make than consume, so that was out.

They seemed way too tough and leathery to eat raw, I dismissed as extra specially loony the suggestion that you whip it up as a smoothie with green apple and nonfat yoghurt. That’s the type of recipe you get when you’re looking at kale recipes, they involve non fat everything, raw nuts, chia seeds, cottage cheese and soy milk. I’m surprised I didn’t see one with tofu, perhaps tofu is a little last decade. I wonder what kale would be like deep fried? I finally decided that a dip could work, and would go with the fajitas we’re having for dinner tonight.

Here’s what I did. Dumped the lot in a sink full of water. Got the frying pan going with a splash of olive oil and a crushed clove of garlic. You rip the kale off the middle stem, discarding any dead moths, and toss it in the frying pan. I didn’t bother drying it, the water helped it cook. The bunch I had was of sufficient volume that I needed to do it in two batches, with a fresh splash of olive oil and clove of garlic the second time around.

Meanwhile I set my new blender a challenge. I put in it the juice of a lemon, a chilli from the plant I bought at Bunnings because it was three dollars fifty and right next to the front door, about a quarter of a cup of chopped Parmesan cheese and a tin of canellini beans. I let the kale cool a bit, because the instructions for my blender were quite firm on the kind of temperatures it would be tolerating, presumably because too many people were trying to use it as a cut price Thermomix. Then I squashed it in with the special squashing stick supplied with the blender, which already has a chunk out of it as a result of me not reading all the way to the end of the instructions. It worked best when it was allowed to grumble away on the lowest speed for about five minutes.

The final result had the right amount of salt from the cheese, the amount of garlic was about right too. I may as well not have put the chilli in, perhaps they’re decorative rather than fiery. It could do with some heat. It’s overwhelmingly fibrous and not terribly flavoursome. You might eat a lot of it if you feel that you have to atone for some kind of secret sin, but you wouldn’t do it of your own free will. I spread it on some Lebanese bread and rolled it up to eat it. I await the verdict of my capricious digestive system. It will be better in small quantities with the fajitas, but I’m still not making it again. Spinach is far nicer. There’s no way I’ll be able to fool the kids into eating it, I’m on my own with this one. I wonder what sin I can commit to make it all worthwhile?

Do it Yourself

I thought I’d better cram two days worth of efficiency into Monday, as tomorrow looks like being a day of lying down with a cold cloth on one’s head as the road melts outside. So I leapt out of bed and got myself up to Bunnings to get some batteries, latches and what I discovered were called casement stays. Then on to Logan’s pianos for a piano book for the Horror to stop him playing the one song over and over on the piano. Then off to the gym.

I really do want the windows in the lounge room to stay open. Apparently they are casement windows and they need a little brass stick arrangement attached to them to keep them open. I got out the set that I’d purchased at Bunnings and had a good look at them. They looked like the ones elsewhere in the house – thank goodness we have them elsewhere in the house or I’d never have known where to start, they didn’t come with instructions. Then I thought I’d have a shower, and perhaps some lunch to fortify myself. OK, back to the casement stays. Actually, no, I might fit a latch to the back gate first, that will be an easier warm up job. It swings shut in the wind and shudders itself loose, so it needs to be hooked back. Well, the latch I’ve purchased is way too small for the job. Back to the casement stays.

I spend ten minutes extracting it from its shrinkwrap with a screwdriver and a large pair of scissors while fending off questions from the bored Muffet. “What’s that?” she asks. “You’re just asking me because you’re bored, you don’t actually want to know, and you’re going to ask more annoying questions when I tell you what it is” I reply, knowing that it won’t stave off the inevitable. “I don’t care, what is it?” “Casement stays” I sigh in reply. Fortunately the Horror does something more than usually annoying and is kicked at by his sister. He delivers what sounds to me like a sincere apology. I test him by asking him to empty the dishwasher. He does it. The Muffet, instead of graciously accepting his apology, shouts at him. I ask her to apologise now and give her brother a kiss. She eventually does, but then has to run off to wipe her lips with Dettol and go sulk in her room. That’s got rid of her.

I sit the casement stays on the window they’re going to keep open. My goodness my dear, that windowsill is really filthy. I dig out some Enjo and give it a good wipe down. OK. Right. I go back to look at the existing casement stays in another room, opening and shutting them. I consider taking a photo of them. No, no, I can remember. I get out my 2B pencil and draw around the bit that will sit on the windowsill and the bit that will attach to the window. Then I get out my ladies drill and drill tiny holes where screws will go. I’ve learnt from long experience that it’s faster to do this than to try and force the screws straight into the wood. Dagnabit, flat headed screws! Who uses them any more? They’re extremely annoying to tighten even with a manual screwdriver, and a power drill just jumps out of them. Heigho. I finally manage to attach everything, but when I shut the window, the latch doesn’t sit neatly on the poking up bit. I unscrew it and redo it, not even saying any rude words. And look! I can keep my window open.

For an encore I attach the latch that was meant for the back gate to the outside bathroom door, to stop that blowing shut while I hang out clothes. Got it in one.

Of course, if you had the kind of job that paid you $200 an hour, you would not attempt this kind of thing yourself, you’d get a nice young man in with a bag of functioning tools who never had to unscrew anything and reattach it the right way up. But I think you know what my hourly rate is.

Holiday activities

I’m sitting on one if those balconies that seem to be made for a durrie and a Vodka Cruiser. I, however, am drinking a glass of AC/DC wine and eating what I want to say are activated almonds, but they’re not.

The kids are having one if those holidays people lament as they gnash their teeth paying for little Brayden’s immersion French camp in Gstaadt. Their daily activities consist of riding their bikes the fifty metres to their cousin’s caravan, jumping on the jumping pillow, making movies of each other on the Moose’s iPad;

And messing about in the river. The river is only waist deep in most places, neck deep under The Rope. I thought I’d pop out with them this afternoon to see what they got up to on the river. The Moose thoughtfully brought our little inflatable boat for me to recline on. It wasn’t until we were out on the water that I realised he’d only brought one oar. You can go around in some pretty tight circles with one oar, but it’s not much use as a motive force.

So the main thing they do on the river is climb a tree on the opposite bank, walk out on the overhanging branch and swing into the water using the provided rope. You can do this pretending to be Gollum, pretending to be an acrobat, pretending to be an old man having a heart attack, pretending to be a chicken that your cousin is shooting out of the tree. Hours of fun.

The other fun thing is to go to the Sinking Sands and corkscrew yourself into the mud. That, apparently is also hours of fun, punctuated by making yourself hairdos and moustaches out of seaweed.

I wonder how I’m going to lure them back for dinner? I’m only offering stir fried chicken and couscous, they may get a better offer elsewhere. They might be making friends with people with a BBQ…

Kitchen Limitations

It’s a bit rude. We’re staying in a caravan park some kilometres from the nearest takeaway, and here is the cooking equipment with which our apartment is supplied:

A microwave that can fit a small breakfast bowl into it and a tiny electric frypan.

Last night we had broccoli pasta. I generally only use my microwave at home for defrosting meat if I’ve forgotten that at some point I’ll need to cook dinner that day. If you want to cook broccoli pasta in a miniature microwave, this is what you do. Half fill a small breakfast bowl with dry pasta, then pour some boiling water to come up just under the level of the pasta. Slosh a tiny bit of olive oil over the top and add a little bit of salt. Place a layer of chopped broccoli over the top. Microwave on high for five minutes. Stir and let it cool for a couple of minutes unless you want your lips to fuse together. Top with Parmesan shaved with the Microplane you’ve had the foresight to bring from home. Repeat for the number of people you’re attempting to feed. You won’t be eating all together, but that’s a given because there’s only four chairs in the apartment.

Tonight it’s a meal that has become quite popular with the kids. Deconstructed sushi. I started making this after realising that there must be some kind of secret Japanese glue holding bought sushi rolls together, because I can’t do it. I serve a couple of bowls of short grained rice seasoned with mirin, with bowls of chopped up cucumber, carrots and capsicum, also a bowl of shredded seaweed for that sushi effect. I’ll generally also serve some chopped stir fried salmon or sliced Japanese style omelette, which is just regular omelette with a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of soy sauce. Everyone helps themselves and a jolly time is had by all.

I don’t have any salmon, because when we stopped at the nearest IGA on the way down here, they hadn’t restocked with that kind of thing after Christmas. I do have eggs, but I’m going to have to do them two at a time, because there are no mixing bowls, they’ll be stirred up in coffee mugs. That’s OK, because I don’t think the frying pan will fit anything bigger in it.

I think I may have reached the limits of my creativity. Tomorrow night we’ll have to go to the Fisho’s, and then perhaps we’ll have to resort to two minute noodles. When we get home I’m making a roast. Or possibly a soufflĂ©.

The Trad Coast Holiday

Nothing fancy. You strap a luggage pod on the car, load up the kids and beach towels and most of your kitchen gadgets and head for the coast. It’s a very Australian summer holiday. The kitchen gadgets bit adds a touch of Inner West, but the principle is the same.

We’re headed for the South Coast, where my brother and his brood are already ensconced in a caravan park by the sea. They already have a gang of old school friends and new caravan park friends down there, but we’re horning in anyway, it’s difficult to get the cousins together. The rain is pouring down and I realise that I’ve made all the kids pack jackets, but have neglected to do so myself. We stop at a cafe on a very scenic lookout that is completely obscured by fog. The Muffet and Horror have vanilla and caramel milk shakes respectively. The Moose has vanilla and bull ant, a new flavour created specially for him.

I thought the idea of having electronic devices in the car was to keep the kiddies quiet. That’s what I’ve always heard. Well, not if they’re playing Monopoly on the iPad, that’s just as noisy as the paper version, only the Horror can’t throw it when he starts losing. I wish they’d play some kind of killing game, like those kids people are always complaining about when they’re reminiscing about how well behaved they were back in the good ole days.

As soon as we turn into the caravan park the kids leap from the moving car and disappear for half an hour. We find our accommodation, not cabins this time, but the freshly renovated apartments that are small but perfectly formed. When all the beds are unfolded there isn’t any floor space, but the bathroom is huge. From the balcony I can see the Horror organising all the little kids on the jumping pillow into some kind of bull rush game. There are six assorted children in various states of dampness eating chips on our lounge. I’ve sent dear husband off to the nearest bike shop to get the Horror’s Christmas bike amended. It came in a box, and I managed to get it into bike shape, but the handlebars are clearly and irretrievably on backwards, and they need professional help.

I think it may be cider o’clock.


New Year’s Resolutions

I wasn’t going to do this, but I’ve been reading a lot of celebrity ones and getting annoyed. Most of the resolutions from people I actually know are pretty good, have some self control and be nice to people. That’s a very fine thing, but not very interesting and more like lifetime rules than new stuff. You want new stuff, something you can tick off a list. Here’s mine.

Wear more lipstick. Actually, this is a long term one, I’ve had this on my list ever since I wore lipstick to school pickup one afternoon and someone asked me if I was having an affair.

Wear an apron while baking. I do have a nice apron, but I was rather put off it when I grabbed it to wear for the first time and found it adorned with a dead huntsman spider. I must get over this baseless fear and protect my clothes from butter and dried flour.

Shout at my husband more. Most people are too scared to, so I’ll be doing a public service and it will make me more assertive. He may not like it, but he can go suck a lemon.

Spend less time with my children. That’s also a long term one, I never seem to achieve it. I should send them on more holiday camps and expect them to get themselves home from school. Unfortunately society and my husband like us to eat dinner together, but see above.

I’m pretty happy with my weight and my exercise regime has kept a physio and a sports doctor in full time work, so there’s nothing to be done there. I may have to accept my advancing old age and swim more often. You can’t ask me to enjoy it though.

Another long time one has been to list my handmade jewellery on some kind of ecommerce site. I have been waiting for the time when I can just wave my phone over the lot and it will set up automatically, but that may be some years away. It is certainly something I can tick off a list, so I’ll leave it on. My phone does take pretty good photos, so that will help.

Drink more coffee. I really love coffee and I have a low tolerance for it. Some extremely carefully selected scientific studies show that it’s pretty good for you so long as you’re not pregnant. Over many years I’ve worked up to being able to drink a large one every day. This year I want to be able to have an extra small one on top of that if I want to without feeling as if I’ve been kicked in the kidneys.

Lastly is a household thing I’ve been meaning to do for years, fix the windows in the room we call the lounge room, despite having no lounge. They have some heritage name, but they’re like doors and need some kind of stick arrangement to keep them open instead of slamming annoyingly shut every time there’s a slight breeze. I’m putting this one down with a deadline, I want it done before the end of the month. I shall keep you posted.

This is my one hundredth post. I started this thing with the aim of finding something interesting to write about every day in the life of this overpriveleged housewife, after many social gatherings at which I’ve been very politely asked what on earth I do with my time. There are only so many jokes you can make about playing tennis and painting your toenails. I may still continue writing a daily post, but it seems more likely that it will end up being weekly. I’ve been very surprised and rather touched to have so many readers. Thank you very much for your attention and your feedback, I hope it’s shown that us stay at home mums aren’t complete layabouts and that there are lots of things in packets that you really don’t need to buy.

I now need to finish assembling the Horror’s bike. I’m having a lot of trouble with the front brake, possibly because someone is sitting on the instructions.