mutteringhousewife

What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Housewifery

Eek, Thermomix

Not sure how to put this, so I’ll just come out and say it. I have a Thermomix. I didn’t buy it! My dear parents, avid readers of this blog, read between the lines and thought that despite all my protestations I might really like a Thermomix. So they bought me one, aided and abetted by my sister who has actually become a Thermomix consultant in the last few months. If you’re in Brisbane and Thermocurious, get in touch with Erin Williams.

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A Thermomix doesn’t just arrive in a box, it is hand delivered by your local consultant. She sets it up, gives you a very thorough lesson in how to use it and in the process you make a vegetable stock concentrate. Let me tell you, Thermomix, it is too salty. Too salty. I don’t care if it prolongs the shelf life, I have a freezer. I’m going to make it again with maybe a third the salt. Apart from that, I had a very enjoyable morning indeed, tinged with a little guilt that she wasn’t the demonstrator for the original party that started me off. My demonstrator was very knowledgeable and interested in cooking herself, so we exchanged tips and stories and generally had quite the excellent time.

I am again astounded at what I won’t be needing in my kitchen any more. Scales. That metal steamer I do broccoli in. The rice cooker, which was on its last legs anyway. The coffee grinder. The milk foamer that goes with the Nespresso machine. I’m definitely going to keep using the KitchenAid for baking, but I won’t have to get the extra bowl I was planning to fork out for, a Thermomix can deal with egg whites like nobody’s business. I will probably keep making bread by hand, because I think it’s different every time and I like kneading. I will also keep using the blender if it ever comes back from holidays for Boost Juice purposes because I’ll allow the kids to use it, but they won’t be getting their sticky fingers on my Thermomix. I could probably cut down on my metal bowl collection and won’t need all three saucepans, but they’re a set and I’m pretty sure my parents bought me those too, about fifteen years ago.

So why am I not cooking things in it right now this very minute? Well, that is because I’m hanging out with the neighbour’s new puppy, Peppa, who was going to have to have a day all by herself if I didn’t come over. She is helping me out by chewing on the recipe book I’m flicking through.

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You can make your own Nutella! I also rather like the look of the Chinese drinking porridge, very healthful. I am totally going to steam fish in the steamer thing that sits on the top. Sadly I think the first thing I’ll be cooking in it is pasta from the pasta shop for the kids dinner tonight, I’ll be going to parent teacher night with the Muffet, the Moose had tennis squads and the husband is playing soccer until late this evening. It’s tough to find a meal that will cater to all those needs. Actually, I could pulverise the Parmesan first, but you need to cut it up into chunks. Easier than hand grating it, I would imagine. No, locals, I don’t like the Parmesan from the IGA, I prefer the Kraft MilLel, it’s tangier, but you do have to grate it yourself.

So you will be hearing a little bit, from time to time, about Thermomix from me. If that doesn’t interest you, talk among yourselves until I get a sewing project going or go on holidays or something. The consultant almost had me convinced that I also need the Thermomix insulated bowl that you keep rice warm in, or make yoghurt in. Maybe I do need one. The catch is that they won’t just sell you one. You have to have a party. I don’t suppose any of you want to come to a Thermomix party? I’m thinking a Friday morning. You get lunch. And they really don’t hard sell, but they do plant a seed that lodges in your brain and starts burrowing, burrowing…

KitchenAid Thoughts

I was going to bellyache about the weather today and count up how many times I’ve got wet. Especially that bit where I had to chop off a giant seed pod that was a good six metres up an Alexander palm in the back yard, if you leave those things they go everywhere. As it was, it nearly crushed the dog, my aim is shocking.

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But I have friends doing Coastrek today, walking 50 kilometres to raise money for the Fred Hollows foundation, and they were probably so wet that they may as well have done the trek in the sea, so I really don’t have anything to complain about.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about my KitchenAid. For most of my baking life I’ve been happy to use a fork for all my beating, creaming and mixing needs. A fork has a multitude of other uses and creaming butter with one builds up the forearms, because you need to swap arms every so often when you cramp up. But last Christmas a friend was looking for a new home for her old KitchenAid because the bowl had started to come loose when making bread. I’m perfectly happy to knead my bread by hand, so offered to love and care for it until the end of its life, hopefully many years hence, and she got a new one for Christmas.

I approached it warily. I found it a spot on the bench where it wouldn’t get in the way, it was far too heavy to be lugging it out of a cupboard every time I wanted to use it. At first I only used it to cream butter, a job it does quickly and efficiently. But the butter creaming brought a small problem, and that is because I’m finally using properly creamed butter, it has affected the texture of the biscuits I use it in. With a bit of trial and error I’ve found that I should reduce the amount of butter by about five grams. Sometimes a bit more, but that seems about right.

Finding that it did that job in a workman like manner, I started letting it mix in flour, beat eggs and soon it was doing the lot. The paddle and bowl go in the dishwasher, there are a good range of paddle speeds and there’s something hypnotic about watching it cream cold butter. Which is another plus, a dough made with cold butter seems to be easier to work with.

It has meant that if there is only an hour to go before school pickup I’m much more likely to make biscuits or muffins for afternoon tea, it is really great to be able to just chuck in the ingredients. I’m also more likely to make more technical recipes, it does all the hard work and I just prepare the ingredients. But now I want a second bowl, wouldn’t that be great for making sponge fingers? Yes, I know they’re only three dollars fifty for a packet at the IGA, but I want to see how much better homemade ones are, and anyway we shouldn’t be eating food that’s had to come half way around the world. Apart from Harmonie butter. I’m looking at some on Amazon, they’re a hundred bucks if you buy them here.

I don’t think I would have bought one for myself, they are eight hundred dollars. Having said that, I am using it nearly every day, so it would only be because I didn’t know what I was missing out on.

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Isn’t it beautiful? I thought about making something special with it for the previous owner of this machine, but she’s a fabulous cook, so instead I’ll get over and sponsor her on Coastrek and hope she doesn’t dissolve completely during her ordeal.

In defence of Housewifery

Society has started to raise its eyebrows at me and go “So. When are you going back to work?” And after a great deal of thought, hours on seek.com and LinkedIn and many coffees with the girls, I’m just not. Have you seen the kinds of jobs offered to people like me? People who would like to work part time, with a bit of flexibility around swimming carnival time, who have been out of the workforce for fifteen years? I’ll tell you so you don’t have to find out for yourself. Admin, reception, maybe sales. Back when I had a real job I was an IT manager. I have a PhD in statistical mechanics. In my most recent volunteer position I’ve become an expert on the not for profit sector, including the various legal entities they can take on, GST obligations, super obligations, reporting obligations, their relationship with various government departments and different acts of parliament that govern their behaviour. Ah, but I wasn’t getting paid for that, was I. So it doesn’t really count. I can get a job opening the mail and doing the filing. Or making phone calls to sales prospects, the thought of which actually brings me out in a blotchy rash. The message is that if you want a real job, girly, you’ll need to do real hours and show real commitment. Well, up yours, workforce. I don’t need you.

Of course it’s easy for me to say that, because I happen to have a workaholic husband with a brain the size of a planet, so we’re fairly tidily off financially. I’d be going back to work so I could have conversations with adults and have performance assessments and be useful to people I haven’t actually grown in my own body. It turns out that the easiest way to achieve those things is to get into volunteer work. Nudge up against anyone in a committee and they’ll grab you with both hands and before you know it you’ll be booking the Town Hall for a Verdi extravaganza, hiring a sixty piece orchestra and organising public liability insurance. Just speaking from my own experience there. Seriously, I have found that being on school and community committees has been extremely nourishing to my soul, exercised the atrophying brain and made me a lot of friends in many walks of life. So that’s taken care of.

The actual housework stuff isn’t so bad either. We got a cleaner very early on in our marriage, it saved us many a futile argument and I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have OCD. So all I do is shop for food almost every day, wash clothes, go on quests for obscure musical instrument parts, prepare food and sew capes. The kids never take processed food to school except for bread, and I’m working on that. I also have the time to drive the kids to and from school when their timetables don’t clash and I highly recommend it. You have them captive for twenty minutes and there’s a lot you can learn in that time. I believe I’m the only mother of my acquaintance that has an almost fourteen year old son that still gives me a full and frank report of what he’s been up to at school every day. I can also go to school assemblies when an offspring is singing a song about a cloud or receiving a piece of paper for not biting anyone on the leg this week and sports carnivals, even though that isn’t my favourite thing in the world. Then when the kids are home I’ve done all my household administration and am free to shout at them for jumping on the lounge and answer difficult maths questions.

There’s nothing in the housewife book to say it is a female role. Or that it’s a role that must be present in each family. It works for us and I don’t think it makes me less of a modern woman. I just wish I didn’t blush when people ask me, inevitably, what I do and I answer straight up that I’m a housewife. I must work on that.

The Great Aussie Barbeque

One of our favourite bits of our house is the large shady verandah out the back. It overlooks the pool, the miniature soccer field, is handy to the kitchen and outside bathroom, enjoys a gentle afternoon breeze. It is the perfect place for a barbeque. Sadly, our barbeque burned to the ground shortly before Christmas.

Well, not literally to the ground. It had been quietly falling to pieces for some time. Dear husband didn’t want it replaced until an identical one could be located. He’s averse to domestic upheaval.

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I searched high and low, east and west, physical and Internet, but they just don’t make barbeques with wooden surrounds any more. They’re all shiny modern looking beasts, they don’t do Federation style in barbeques. Then one day, after a delightful lunch with friends, the back of the barbeque shot out a tongue of flame. More followed and judging it unwise to sacrifice our eyebrows to extinguishing attempts, we wheeled it into the middle of the verandah and let it do its thing. Fortunately it was the week before the cleanup, so after shedding a silent tear, out it went onto the council strip.

My resident hunter decided to go see for himself that no Federation style barbeques existed, and after a far less exhaustive search than mine, he dragged home a couple of boxes from Bunnings and positioned them artfully exactly where Old Faithful had stood for so many years, as if hopeful that the contents of the box would get the hint. I ignored it for a couple of days, but couldn’t resist its silent allure, so I got out my screwdrivers and a Stanley knife, gathered my helpers and set to work.

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I won’t bore you with the details, except to mention that local mosquitoes find the scent of mosquito coils rather bracing. Also that I did plan to do the ten assembly steps in order, but I got to step 5 to discover that I’d done step 2 wrong, so I skipped to step 9 which looked easy to cheer myself up before heading back to step 2, then it was plain sailing from step 6 on. Except that I’m pretty sure that I have the front and back legs reversed and I definitely have four screws left over. And that I can understand the motive behind the black on black decor, but it does make assembly challenging if you’re attempting step 3 after dinner and a couple of ciders.

I like assembling things, especially when the instructions are in English. I think the key to putting together a flat pack is to assume that you’re going to put half of it together upside down and inside out and be prepared to sigh a little and unscrew everything and do it again once or twice more. Once you have factored into your plans you’re a lot less flappable. You should also not under any circumstances accept any help, you will inevitably not appreciate the thoughtful advice you’ll be given. I’m now ready for step 10, which is to call a plumber and have the Beast connected to the mains gas, we don’t do gas bottles. I’m going to go check the mailbox for magnets advertising plumbers, and then I’m going to go put a heat pack on my back. Perhaps I should have asked for help in step 4.

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Minor creations

I’ve spent most of the morning calculating and paying super for musicians, and that makes me cry with boredom, so I can imagine how you’d feel about it. Instead of going into that I’ll give you two things that I’ve made this week that I’m rather pleased with.

The first was inspired by a key holder I saw on the ThinkGeek website. I really cannot believe I’ve never thought of making household objects out of Lego before. We have about ten kilos of the stuff, although in these decadent days it’s a lot more specific than the primary coloured bricks of my youth. I decided to raid the Horror’s stash because his was less organized than the Moose’s, but I knew I’d get in trouble. To circumvent this I thought I’d tidy it up a little. I tipped out a large boxful, procured three smaller boxes and sorted it into specific (weapons, leaves, mini figs), difficult shapes and general shapes. There was a fair amount of washing and drying going on too, a neglected bag of lollies had met its doom in there quite some time ago.

What I wanted to make was a rack of utensil hooks. I have a large glass splash back surrounding my stovetop and a goodly number of utensils with holes in the handles. I have some suction cup hooks which work well, but are outrageously expensive. I bought some of those stick on hooks which are also fairly expensive for what they are, which is completely useless. Apparently their formulation is such that if you ever want to remove them in the distant future they will come off leaving no sticky residue. Sadly, they just don’t stick on in the first place. Too politically correct. At least you can get robust double sided tape, which was all I needed to mount my Lego creation.

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As expected, I did get in trouble. “Mummy, I might have had plans for that.” . “Well, it was all a sticky mess, and I’ve sorted it for you”. “Hmm. Thank you for sorting it for me, but next time you want something built out of Lego, you ask me.”. I might have to get my own Lego.

Then there’s decorating the ankle brace. I had some left over glitter felt from the Costume Making Experience and what better use could it be put to than sprucing up the ole boot.

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I even sewed some tiny bells on in the devout hope that I would be shot of the damned thing by Christmas and could reuse it as neckwear for the doggies. I also have in mind a white fur cuff, but you’ll have to wait for next week for that.

ENJO

Today I had the quintessential housewife experience. The ENJO party. Not at my place, because I know my strengths and one of them isn’t hosting parties. There was only one other housewife there, everyone else was in gainful employment of some description, some even skiving off work for the occasion.

For those that haven’t attended one, an ENJO party works exactly like a Tupperware party, only with cleaning products. We straggle in, are greeted by the dog, stand around awkwardly for a bit until everyone has a hot beverage, then we sit down and get stuck in to discussing the school that our sons all attend. Because they are at a private school the discussion is mainly about what a fantastic time our sons are having and what legends their teachers are, with a little bit on sporting choices and whether last year’s school captain will be Prime Minister someday or just Emperor of the World. He was that kind of kid.

We do eventually move on to the products. The ENJO system consists of a cleaning cloth with a matching drying cloth, tailored for various cleaning situations. In your kitchen you wet the kitchen glove, wipe over your greasy stove, then dry it with the kitchen drying cloth and stand back in amazement, because they really do work this way. You never need to buy any cleaning products ever again. Because I am a housewife of long standing, I already have most of these cloths and am mainly there for moral support. They have moved into soaps, so I get some hand wash – which emerges from the pump in enticing little puffs of foam, and dish washing liquid. They also have little circular make up removal pads, which we try by applying lipstick to our hands then wiping it off with the wet pad. I’m utterly sold, despite the fact I’ve been on the same pot of Ponds cleanser for about ten years. I may have to start wearing makeup.

A jolly good time was had by all, and arrangements are made for the next party, because that’s how these things work. I’m going to have to go to that one because I want to see if the sales lady is going to wear another ENJO coloured dress.