What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: July, 2013

Kosciusko Chalet

There’s a few different ways to get the snow experience. You could rent your skis in Sydney (remember when you rented your skis and outfit at Rebel?). Then drive up after work on Friday and stay at the caravan park at Jindabyne and drive up to the snow with all your gear every day (that relationship didn’t last). You could do what our friends the Larry Adlers did and gather some buddies and hire rooms at a lodge so they could hang out after skiing together. As this was at Charlotte Pass the only catch with this is you have to bring in most of your food. There is a shop at Charlotte’s, but after it has sold you a joke hat and a bag of freckles it has done its dash. The nearest IGA is about an hour away by oversnow at Perisher.


Or you could utterly lash out and stay at the Kosciusko Chalet.

Man I love staying here. Especially when remembering staying at the caravan park at Jindabyne. You walk twenty metres up the hill to pick up your gear. You ski out the door of the chalet in the morning after a hearty buffet breakfast to the T bar. And because my husband currently has two jobs, we stayed in the Tower Suite. See that round bit at the top of the chalet? That’s the Tower. The round room is a sitting room with excellent views of the mountain, there’s a double bedroom and a kids bedroom where three kids occupy some pretty squeaky beds. Also a bathroom with a fairly tiny but serviceable bath and one of those hotel showers that make you leap about as the temperature touches all points between ten and eighty degrees at random. It’s gorgeous. I can see the top of the T bar from my bed.

We first started staying here when the kids were small, four six and eight. The chalet has a kids club that has actually deteriorated a little in recent times. They used to have a huge room with all the consoles and lots of equipment. They’re now in a quite tiny room with just a Wii, but the staff are still lovely. Anyway, when the kiddies got tired or snow down their fronts you could ski them up to the door, click off your skis, hand in the kid and ski off again all in the space of about five minutes. It was very easy to check on them every hour to see if they’d recovered enough to come back out again. They also take them off your hands at 5.30pm to feed them and you can have them back at 9pm after you’ve enjoyed a three course meal with your dear husband. Awesome.

This year the weather was spectacular for the first time in my skiing experience, so we barely used the kids club at all.

Sunshine all round, cold enough to keep the snow frozen. So it may be that our time at the Chalet is coming to an end and we should start skiing somewhere that has more than two lifts servicing the mountain. I’ll miss the massive stone, the somewhat leaky windows, the gluhwein, the young cheery slightly inept staff, the relative lack of teenagers (most people bring their own), coaxing my screaming knees up the carved wooden staircase at the end of the day, no queues! Maybe we could go for one more year.

Skiing at Charlotte’s Pass

You’re not going to get a blow by blow account of this holiday, dear reader, because we’re at the highest ski resort in Australia and there isn’t any phone reception. None at all. Except at the top of the T bar and if you think I’m going to blog from there, you have another think coming. So we’ve forked out for twenty five minutes of wifi so the husband can check his emails and the Muffet can water her virtual plants.

The one hundred and fifty people who warned me to be careful of my ankle will be greatly relieved to hear I’m still on two feet. Though I do emit small cries of anguish while going up the stairs, but that’d be knees, not ankles. They’ll recover as soon as I stop skiing, and the pain is greatly alleviated by alcohol. You’ll also be pleased to see that there’s enough snow.

There’s a fair bit of shrubbery poking through it, but that’s fairly soft. I’m working on my technique, especially as there’s a couple here that we know who look like something out of a Larry Adler commercial, skis always together, always have their weight on the uphill ski. They make an almost vertical slope look like a stroll down to the shops, rather than the crouching, flailing, clouds of snow, adrenaline pumping epic adventure I make of it. I’m taking on board some advice the Horror’s instructor gave him. He said imagine there’s a killer worm in you boots. You need to squash him against the front if your boots before he wriggles up and eats your knees. Squash that worm.

We’re also prepared for the conditions. It’s pretty fabulous up here at the moment, but the temperature hasn’t got above zero yet. You want all you skin covered.

I’ve also learnt a valuable lesson from the children. If they say “hey Mum, I’ve found a great new way through the trees!”, on no account follow them. Death and despair and getting your skis stuck in a snowdrift when you panic and veer away from a jump will follow.

Look how beautiful it is up at the top of the chairlift.

That’s after you finally get up here. It’s never crowded at Charlotte’s Pass, so the lifties are very kind and slow down or stop the chairlift for young kids, slowboarders, nervous nannas, anyone really. Instead of mowing them down like they do at more commercial resorts.

Well I’ve checked the kids into kids dinner, us adults get a three course dinner while they watch some lame fairy movie, as the Moose would put it. All I need to do is put on my shoes and howl my way down two flights of stairs. I do love skiing, especially at Charlotte’s. I just wish my joints would stop acting their age.

Frosting a Window plus a spot of Amateur Plumbing

I’ve had one of those efficient days. I blame my husband. He was working from home today, so I kind of felt like I had to look busy. So not only did I do much washing, cleaning the fridge and packing for skiing, I also attended to some of those little odd jobs that I feel I’ve are part of my remit.

We have a bathroom on our back verandah. I had it renovated two years ago, and it was fully as painful as the current indoor bathroom refresh. It has a door leading outside to the washing line with a large pane of glass in it, giving a clear view of our neighbour’s back verandah. Conversely, giving them a clear view of us showering. I can’t help notice that they’ve put up a wooden screen.

See? On top of the fence, on the left. Now I don’t really care if they see me showering or not, but my parents in law are coming to mind the house and animals while we’re away next week, and they may be more shy and retiring. And they don’t have a choice, if they showered in the indoor bathroom the would be water everywhere due to the continuing lack of a shower screen. So it is time to frost that window.

Yes, the door was supposed to have a frosted window, but the bathroom people, when met with that suggestion, just gave a resigned shrug. Hardier souls would have taken it up with them, but not me. No. I waited two years, then got me up to Bunnings for a $16.99 roll of window frosting. It’s next to the fly screens.

It’s easier than covering books with contact, that’s for sure. You wash the window with a spray bottle of water and your trusty Enjo window washer.

You discover that the glass is already covered with a plastic film. I knew the outside was, because it’s starting to decay and flake off. So out with the Stanley knife, after you’ve retrieved it from under your daughter’s pile of “craft” on her desk and gently trace around the frame, then it just peels off in a rather satisfying manner. You cut a piece of film slightly larger than the window, then lay it on the floor. You peel off the backing and spray the sticky side with water, which appears to stop it curling up on itself like contact does. You then press it onto the window and squeegee it down to remove any bubbles. I don’t usually say this, but et voila!

Flushed with success, I turned my handy attention to the next family complaint. This was that the new tap in the new sink in the new bathroom was a bit too enthusiastic. Could I get the plumber back in to have it tamed down? Not on your nelly, I’ll have a crack it myself.

Have you looked under your bathroom sink? Chances are you’ll find that the taps are attached to woven metal pipes which have their own taps.

You need to keep an eye on the hot pipe, they need to be replaced about every five years because they rust. Also a simple Bunnings job. Anyway, turn the sink tap on full in the cold position, then turn the tap under the sink counterclockwise until the pressure drops to your satisfaction. Do the same for the hot side. Plumbers, who needs them!

I also finished a kind of crocheted mitten without any fingers, it’s more of a tube with a thumb hole really, and now I just need to make one more for my left hand. But instead I’m making a pompom for the Muffet’s beanie. I can’t tick off too many things on the list, I’ll be setting my standards too high.


We’re driving to the snow on the weekend. Yes, yes, yes about the falling over, I’ll try not to. Like I mean to. Anyway, it’s a bit of a drive and I have quite the knack for falling asleep while driving. It does mean that I have no problem getting to sleep at night, but a bit problematic on a long drive. So I suck on sweets for my bit, and avoid driving at afternoon tea time and after nine. My sweet of choice is Koolmints, but I thought I’d make my own this time.

Had a look at making humbugs, but that seems to involve third degree burns, so I had a go at butterscotch. Here’s the Women’s Weekly recipe.

This cookbook was published just as Australia was going metric, so the back of the book has handy conversion tables to metric. A pound of sugar is 453.6 grams. Quarter of a pint of water is 142 millilitres. Who knows how much a dessert spoon is, I just used my breakfast spoon, and anyway the glucose is so viscous you’re never going to accurately measure it except by weight. And why are they mixing weight and volumes? Instead of half a cup of brown sugar, I used half brown sugar and half dark muscovado sugar. Partially because I like the rich treacly taste, partly because I’ve run out of brown sugar.

So you put all the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring it to the boil while stirring with your trusty wooden spoon. After the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved, you turn up the heat and leave it alone. Well, you put the sweets thermometer in. That little eight dollar miracle takes all the fear and loathing out of sweet making. It’ll start bubbling up, adjust the heat so it doesn’t bubble right on out and all over your stovetop. But once you’ve got it bubbling about half way up the saucepan and the sweet thermometer measuring away, you can leave it alone.

It took about half an hour to get up to that temperature, even with obsessively watching the temperature. You want it at 290F, I’m going Fahrenheit because that side of the thermometer is easier to read. As soon as it touches that temperature (hard crack if you’re doing it the old fashioned way), take it off the heat. With great foresight, you’ve put out a biscuit tray covered in baking paper. Slosh that boiling toffee all over it.

It takes a surprisingly small amount of time to cool down, only as long as yet another irate phone call to a bathroom supply shop. Try to cut it up before it solidifies, and use your largest knife, you need leverage.

If you don’t want it to all stick together you’ll need to wrap it which does sound like a pain in the neck. I just cut strips of baking paper and rolled them up, then packed them in small ziplock bags.

Here’s the important step, hide them from the children. The leftovers went in seconds.

Crochet Black and White Beanie and Rainbow Scrunchie

Having looked through many knitting and crochet patterns lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that most of them you wouldn’t be seen dead in a ditch in. What is it about yarn craft and really horrible clothing? Do you know of anyone who’d actually want a woollen daisy brooch? Seriously! No wonder so much of it is intended for babies, they can’t get away.

Beanies are the exception. I’ve seen many beanie patterns that look both possible and good, and I’ve finished two and am contemplating a third. You’ve seen the first one, and here’s the second.

I’m not, you know, ecstatic about it. I think I’ve put the crown in upside down, but crochet looks OK either side. The brim is done in Tunisian stitch, which produces a very pleasing almost material like result, but isn’t very stretchy, so not the greatest choice for a brim. It was fun to do though, you do it on a long crochet hook. You collect all the loops onto the hook in one row, then the next row is almost exactly like casting off knitting. You don’t turn the hook around between rows, so you feel a bit like you’re operating a typewriter. I did a lot of it during Monsters University, which was very cute but not as entertaining as the first movie, which I saw approximately four hundred times before the DVD disintegrated.

But I needed a black and white beanie to watch the boys playing soccer. It actually looks better on.

All the baggy bits stretch out. It’s quite close fitting, so will mess up the wild and free hair thing I have going, which is why the next one I’ll make will be a slouchy beanie. Just have to choose the colour.

I’m also in the process of doing some fingerless gloves, which I’m finding fairly boring. So instead I did a scrunchie.

That was very easy, I did it during Star Wars Three, which the Horror was watching in between jumping on the trampoline and decrapulating his school bag. You just take a hair elastic, the kind you buy in packs of twenty because the dogs tend to eat them if you leave them around. None of the instructions actually tell you how to get the wool on the elastic, they just say sc around the elastic. What you do is stick your needle into a slip stitch. Then you poke your needle into the middle of the elastic and draw the wool up with the hook and through the slip stitch. Then you alternate drawing the wool through the middle of the elastic and from the outside of the elastic as you form each stitch. You just pack as many stitches on there as you can fit. The you can knock yourself out with what you do next. I just sc’d twice into each of the first row, then every second one in the second row and every third in the third row. Makes a ruffly scrunchie that your daughter will immediately wrap around her ponytail when she comes home from pony camp. Could make good birthday presents. The dogs definitely won’t be interested in eating them either.

So next is a slouchy beanie, and then a round one with a brim that I’m going to make in red for a friend. Not sure what pattern I’m going to use yet, but don’t worry. She did ask for it, I’m not inflicting it on her. I should be fairly good at it by the time I get up to that one.

Rather Good Banana Smoothie

The advantage of having fussy children is that they’ll keep gently encouraging you to keep trying until you get that banana smoothie just right. It’s just the thing for a growing lad who’s spent the day at tennis camp and has come home all pink and starving.

You do need to do a bit of of advance planning. Apart from buying bananas. Once the bananas are fairly ripe, but not at the banana bread stage, peel them, break them in pieces and freeze them.

Nobody eats fresh bananas in our house, they like them processed. I usually just fling this smoothie together, but for the purposes of the blog I measured everything for this afternoon’s batch. It was a pretty good one, if I do say so myself.

Place in a blender (though the kids request the Thermomix, it gives a noticeably smoother result) about two frozen bananas in chunks. Add half a cup of (homemade) plain yoghurt and a cup of milk. Add also half a teaspoon of cinnamon and some sweetener, and this depends on your kid and the initial sweetness of the bananas. Today I put in two tablespoons of maple syrup and two tablespoons of rice malt syrup. You could use honey, and you could use less. Zap it for about twenty seconds, or on the smoothie setting on your blender.

It made three big glasses full, one each for me, Moose and the Muffet. The Horror won’t eat bananas except in cake form. I shouldn’t have had mine, being a little intolerant to both bananas and milk, but goodness it was delicious, thick and creamy. I wonder if the kids would mind making their own dinner tonight? I feel like a lie down.

Lemon Meringue Fail

One problem with conducting a blog in which you occasionally mention food preparation is that people form certain expectations about your abilities. So when you’re invited for dinner and you offer to bring dessert, it might be a wise idea to bring something you’ve actually made before.

Well, I have actually made lemon meringue pie before, but I wasn’t happy with it. This time, I was definitely pretty happy with the crust, though it was a little over cooked. I had a lot on on Saturday, I stopped concentrating. Anyway, it was three tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of crystallised ginger, zapped in the Thermomix. You don’t have to use ginger, but I really like it with lemon. Add 150 grams of cold butter, two cups of plain flour and three tablespoons of cold water. Zap that in the Thermomix. It will turn to a crumb like substance first, but should start becoming more dough like after ten seconds or so. If it doesn’t, add another tablespoon of water. Don’t go nuts with the water, a wet dough will make somewhat tougher pastry. You just want it to hold together. Squash it into a ball, wrap in Gladwrap, then put it in the fridge for half an hour or so while you melt the chocolate for the topping of the choc mint slice you’re making as a backup.

Roll out the pastry, then gently lift it into a pie dish. I dust the pie dish with a bit of flour, but as I use a glass pie dish I’ve not had a shortcrust stick to it. I had a few off cuts left, so I also made some mini tart cases. Cover it with baking paper, load it up with some barley you found in the back of the pantry that’s past its use by date and is looking a bit dubious and bake it at 180 degrees for about ten minutes. Wade out into the back swamp and dump the barley in the compost, remove the baking paper (once you’ve made it back to the kitchen), then bake for another ten minutes. You just want it golden. I really must get myself some pie weights.

I don’t think I’ll trouble you with the filling recipe. There seem to be a few schools of thought on the filling, and I foolishly went with the corn flour and water version. You whisk together cornflour, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar over heat (or in a Thermomix) until it boils, then whisk in three egg yolks. You pour that into a bowl and refrigerate it. It thickens up quite satisfactorily, at which point you spoon it into the pie case. Then you do the meringue, which is whisk three egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Pour into the KitchenAid while it’s still going a third of a cup of caster sugar and you’ll see the meringue go all glossy. Spoon it over the cold pie, then back into the oven until the top of the meringue just starts to brown.

Shall I cut a long story short? After an excellent meal and much nagging by the Horror I cut into the pie to discover it was more of a meringue pie with lemon sauce. The lemon filling had completely liquefied. I probably should have put it in the fridge. Oh, it got eaten.

It was delicious.

But, embarrassing! Especially as my hostess had been calling me Nigella all evening.

So I’ve been thinking about trialling different filling recipes to put into the leftover tart cases. But the kids have sneaked them all and eaten them unfilled. They’re just going to have to put up with eating different lemon meringue pies for dessert this week. How I make them suffer.