What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Shopping

Should I go to Costco?

Well, of course I should, and I did, but the real question is, should I go again? And in the interests of not being click baity, the answer is also yes, and this post is about telling you why. And possibly saving you a trip. 

I’ve been meaning to go since it opened in Auburn in that strange pulsating section of Parramatta Road just west of the markets where a rash of furniture super centres simultaneously sprang up about twenty years ago. I was taking the Horror to Bunkers (a bed emporium that I highly recommend) to pick up his new bed. He’d finally had enough of sleeping on a mattress on the floor, it was too easy for his mother to wake him up by jumping up and down on him. He was very specific about what he wanted, an elevated double bed that he could make a cave under, and also paint Cadbury purple, his favourite colour. We were ultimately successful in this particular quest.

It’s a bit hard to tell, but the carpet and trims are the same shade of purple, as is the fleece blanket on the bed. The whole setup makes my teeth hurt, but he likes it. Anyway, five minutes before Bunkers looms that giant warehouse. I explained to the Horror what it was. He said we had to go.

I was expecting an obese Aldi, a shop I’ve entered about five times now, only to emerge fifteen minutes later bemused and empty handed. I don’t get Aldi at all. I really only buy cat food, butter and toilet paper from supermarkets these days, so Aldi doesn’t have a lot to offer me. Anyway, I was very very wrong.

Costco has a lot of things, not just super sized supermarket fare, to which I’ll get in a moment. Mattresses, diamond rings, giant televisions, business luggage, faux antique furniture, about an acre of horrible plastic clothes, safes, pressure washers, compost bins, business luggage, drones, clothes steamers, a toilet seat with LED lights, presumably to improve your aim in the dark. Some good brands too, like Vitamix and KitchenAid. It has things that you never knew you needed.

I’m pretty sure I need this trolley. I’m not sure why, but I can see it in my future. They also have things that I definitely do not need, also in great quantities.

I can see the appeal of the human skeleton, but where does one start with the spider? No one needs a spider of that size, and I feel a rant about the internal structure of invertebrates coming on, so I’ll just leave that thought with you and move on.

I’m really here for the consumables. Toilet paper, to be specific. I’m not sure what my children do with it, make hats or corsages or something, but we go through it by the pallet load. And they have it here by the pallet load, you can buy a pack of 48, big rolls too, not those “we hope you haven’t noticed us reducing the size but not the price” rolls that Kleenex have been putting out lately. I could possibly get them for a similar price if I waited for the specials to come around at the local, but one has to concentrate. I also need much cat food. I’m currently in possession of two felines. Stormaggedon has been with us for nearly two years now, but we’ve also recently acquired Miffy from my sister whose strata committee rather turn up their noses at companion animals. Unfortunately the two do NOT get on, and spending the day trying to kill each other seems to give them a rare appetite. It’s marvellous to be able to buy a box of 36 sachets which at current rate of consumption lasts me about a week. Also a jumbo box of that nice cat litter that doesn’t stink out your upstairs bathroom, Miffy has decided that she’s never leaving the house again after encountering the local gangster cat.

I picked up a litre of beautiful dark maple syrup, a couple of kilo packs of Callebaut chocolate chips for the Moose’s favourite choc chip biscuits (I’m pretty sure I’ve given you the recipe at some point), the purple fleece blanket pictured above (I ended up going back and getting a green one for myself, it was very thick and fluffy and $20), a giant box of muesli bars (the kids say my home made ones are too crumbly, the fussy buggers), a tray of San Pellegrino Arianciata Rosso for a treat, five kilos of flour, a lifetime’s supply of toothbrushes, toothpaste and Metamucil. The giant pack of chicken salt was probably ill advised, and I’m still not sure whether a kilo of Jelly Bellies for twenty five bucks was great or terrible. Depends how many chocolate ones I get in a row, chocolate jelly beans should not be a thing. Speaking of things that should not be a thing,

They did have quite a few items that would encourage you to make bad choices, like the huge packs of chicken salt already mentioned, but also American sized packets of chips,

Yes, I’m judging. Though I really didn’t know what to make of some people’s choices,

Boxes and boxes of pink salt. Nothing else. Pink salt.

The fresh food was pretty good, they have CluckAR approved free range eggs, I got a kilo of lamb cutlets for $35 and we had them for dinner that night. They were great, not too much fat either. A kilo of haloumi is never going astray at our house. The fruit was a bit patchy, but the kilo packs of salad leaves look good. I probably wouldn’t regularly buy fresh food here unless I’m having a barbecue, everything is in catering sized packs. Even though I have three hungry teenagers, they’re very rarely all present for a meal at the same time. Also, my freezer isn’t very large and already has a lot of home made stock cluttering it up.

The prices range from could have got it for that on special at the local to are you sure that’s not a misprint. For me it was worth the sixty bucks annual fee. I do need to lie down for a bit once I get home, the lights are very bright and I’m sure I haven’t noticed half the stock that they have due to the sensory overload. But I’ve essentially stopped shopping at the local supermarkets, I’m only shopping for fresh food now (not at supermarkets, obviously, I’m not a sociopath. Hmm. Was that a bit strong?). I can see myself going back probably every three weeks or so, so if you want to check it out before joining, let me know and I can give you a very patchy and incomplete tour and talk you into buying something inappropriate. 


Ah, Spotlight

I do quite like being employed. I like my students, I have a lot of control over what I teach and how it’s delivered, I rarely have to speak to any actual adults. But this semester was a little bit full on. 169 students, eight tutorials and two lectures a week, all for me. All because my boss has presumably watched too many Disney movies and is now following his dream instead of answering the phone in his office to deal with the slew of dying grandmothers that comes around every time an assignment is due. 169 students meant 169 assignments to mark, and after that was finished I had to lie down for a week, plus do thirty five loads of washing.

But now that I’ve recovered I have to scratch that craft itch and scratch it good. Have you heard of amigurumi? It’s little crocheted animals, most of which are ghastly, but I found a Star Wars book of it!

And, more recently, in the Morris and Sons sale, a book of non ghastly animals to make upon which I cannot wait to get started. But first I have to finish my Star Wars ones,

Chewie obviously needs another arm, and Yoda (or Yoda’s brother, the Horror insists, he tells me that is most certainly not Yoda) has to have some sleeves attached to his cardigan. I also done a business sock.

So, obviously, there’s more work to be done there unless my husband loses a leg today at the Army. He probably won’t.

And, noting my frantic activity, the Moose put in an order for four monk’s costumes for him and mates to wear to Supanova, a weekend for nerds that is looking increasingly complex as it also happens to be a weekend with five soccer games, Rockfest and an Eisteddfod and all three kids plus self want to go. I’m not sure that praying for rain is an actual plan. But anyway, I needed twelve metres of some kind of heavy material to robe up the boyz.

My nearest Spotlight is at Birkenhead Point. I don’t know if you’ve been there lately. If you haven’t, don’t. Really. Unless you want to give yourself a migraine, or conniptions. Imagine that the Zombie Apocalypse decided that it wanted to make itself some nice curtains and a matching pouffe, and you’ve got Spotlight Birkenhead Point. I actually saw two shop assistants pull all of the ribbon onto the floor, put two back, and then go on a break. They didn’t come back for the entire hour that I was there, floundering through the oceans of sateen and fleece and stretch sequinned dance fabric, bumbling past the undead as they muttered things like “I’m sure this isn’t 8 ply” and “would it kill them even more to put a price on this?”. I went out empty handed, never to return.

But those monks’ robes weren’t going to make themselves, so I decided it was worth my while to trek out to the Spotlight at Rockdale. Oh the joy of being able to see the floor. And the bolts of fabric all on shelves! All pointing the same way! They even seem to be sorted into fabric types. I found my target very easily, I think it’s a double knit jersey. Ah. $16.99 a metre. I do love my Moose, and I think his friends are delightful, but are they that delightful? I don’t even want to do the multiplication. But what’s this? Another bolt of the same fabric in the same colour in the managers special shelf! Marked down to six dollars a metre!!! I’m not sure that there’s twelve metres there, but I haul it up to the cutting desk, accidentally picking up sundry balls of acrylic and some more double pointed needles just in case I’m a lot quicker at making that owl in the book plus the four pairs of socks that I’ve promised people than I thought I’d be.

I’m third in line at the cutting desk. The older lady behind the desk does seem to be taking her time. She also seems to be a little slapdash, each metre that she cuts looks like it has a generous border to it. She is being very nice to the young lady buying the fabric, chatting to her little girl who is very close to losing it. As am I, I should have timed her. Twenty minutes, I’m pretty sure, is how long it took, with price checking, discussion of how lovely the fabric was, in how many pieces did she want it, how old the little girl was. By the time she was finished the line behind me had about seven silently fuming women in it. The man in front of me just wanted two metres of zipper (I didn’t know you could buy it buy the metre! There seemed to be a little zipper head about every fifty centimetres).

“Do you have a Spotlight card?”, she asked. Do I look like the kind of person who’d have a Spotlight card? Of course I do, and I already had it out. And my cloth bag. “Oh, aren’t you lovely,” she said. One does one’s best. “I don’t think there’s twelve metres here, but there’s another bolt…”, “would you mind grabbing it?”, “Not at all,” I said as I sped off and sped back again. “You are a love,”she said. “Long morning?” I asked, giving her something to chat about as she painstakingly measure out my metreage. “Oh!”, she began. I knew it. “I’m just here to do the balloons, and Irene’s just disappeared, and I don’t know where Sylvia has gone, she’s supposed to do the cutting, so they can’t blame me if I don’t get the measurements right, I’m just the balloon lady! I’ve got an order that I need to do, IRENE TO THE SERVICE COUNTER, and I’ll show them what happens when you get the balloon lady to do Irene’s job. This was on sale? Well, end of year special, everything is half price,” as she jabbed at the cash register causing me to regret I hadn’t also picked up several yards of velvet and an overlocker. “They only have themselves to blame, I’m just helping out, IRENE TO THE SERVICE COUNTER, what do they expect? I’m sorry if I’ve been a bit haphazard”. “Not at all, it’s been a real treat” I assured her.

So I can’t tell you what I got this for, not in writing anyway, because I don’t want to get her fired.

But what I’ve learned today is that if your business requires someone to cut material and charge for it appropriately, don’t ask a one eyed balloon lady to do it. I think there’s a lesson in that for all of us.

Excursion to Paddy’s

Earlier in the week I had a day full of absolutely no children. So I thought I’d go on a little adventure. I wanted get some cheap fruit for the jammin’ stall I’ll be running at the school fete in a couple of weeks, but thought Flemington Markets sounded way too daunting. So I decided to go to Paddy’s Markets because I haven’t been there in years, AND you can get the freshly opened light rail right to the door.

The light rail is an odd transport link in that it really doesn’t go anywhere terribly useful. This is because they’ve used an old goods line that was routed to get stuff from various ports on the harbour to various factories further inland. Our suburb has a stop because the line happens to run along the local canal. Anyway, on this bright morning I hauled my old lady shopping trolley up the stairs to step straight on to a service full of prams and small children, all of whom were eating bananas. I have nothing against bananas as a form of nutrition, or as a base for a tasty cake, but when eaten in public they smell like death and should be banned.

I’m not entirely sure where all those kids were going, possibly to what’s left of Darling Harbour, but they’d all trickled off by the time I got to the markets. I fought my way through the fug of cheap plastic to the back where the fruit is and did find myself some cheap apples (apple sauce, and for my children to eat) and tomatoes (roasted tomato paste, see a previous post). Of course if you add on the transport fare they’re not so cheap, but I’m planning to put that in my entertainment budget instead.

I found the rest of the market to be deeply depressing. Cheap garbage being bought by bogans dragging unwilling children through the dimly lit aisles. Tshirts with horribly misogynist slogans, acres of identical i-cases that would fall apart if you looked at them too hard, knock off handbags, plastic plastic plastic.

But then I saw a stall selling Vietnamese clothes, possibly made by three year olds sheltering under a water buffalo, that were just lovely. The stall keeper recognised a sucker and dragged me in, handed me an armful of tops, allowed me to try on one, then started stripping it off and buttoning me into the next one. Admittedly those knot buttons are a little tricky, but dear reader, can you imagine it. Perhaps from the shock of being manhandled by a woman twice my age and half my size, I bought three. They were really cheap! And perfect work tops for this tricky trans-seasonal moment we’re having. I’ve been looking for work tops for ages, why are so many of them see through? I love my Victoria’s Secret collection, but I don’t want people to see it. And I don’t want to have to wear a shirt underneath my shirt, that’s madness.

I wore the purple one yesterday to work and it was just right. Comfortable, breathable, I hate to think what will happen when I wash it. I might soak it in a vinegar solution first. I’m certainly not handwashing it, I’m not that kind of housewife.

Sweet Georgiou’s

No, really, I had to go there for work. I’m giving a lecture next week and solids and liquids will feature a fair bit. Kool Mints actually make a fairly good analogue of particles crystallizing.

The amount you get in the standard sized packet of Kool Mints (which I swear has decreased markedly) isn’t enough to crystallize in a glass casserole dish. So I could buy a few packets. Or I could go to Georgiou’s.

You want to do lolly bags for an entire kindergarten class, you have twelve grandchildren you want to organise an Easter Egg hunt for, you want to give your conference attendees something to do with their hands other than tweet about how bored they are, you have to come to Georgiou’s. It’s a little unassuming from the streetfront, on New Canterbury Road in Petersham.

Walk in and if you breathe in too deeply you’ll get sugar diabetes, as my grandma calls it. As you walk in on the right is the American “food” that you’ve seen on TV, Junior Mints, JuJy Fruits, all the M&M flavours, those large boxes of confectionary masquerading as breakfast cereal.

And Clamato is real! I thought Homer Simpson made it up!

Described as a tomato cocktail, the description proudly announces it contains the equivalent of two pounds of shrimp and clams. The website suggests that it’s excellent mixed with beer. And have a Captain Cook at the item on the right of this shot

I originally took it because of the hot sauce of death, which I wouldn’t have thought was a selling point, and only noticed the caffeine laced maple syrup after. Crikey.

Anyway, the main part of the warehouse is bulk lollies and chocolates. You can get small packets;

Or big ones;

They had a whole aisle of cellophane and wicker bulking up Easter packs. But you could get cheap packs of deceased chocolate bunnies in pieces. Not sure what you’d do with that. Spread it on the garden, perhaps.

I had to go around the whole place four or five times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I was a little sad not to see those Austrian rectangular fruit sweets wrapped in waxed paper, Cinnamon Mentos or Callebaut cooking chocolate, but you can’t have everything, and anyway I just would have bought them and eaten them. I got my kilo pack of Kool Mints, some mint sticks that should do for a liquid crystal demonstration, some Mint Imperials because I like them and can’t make them, some non-caffeinated maple syrup because we’re having a maple syrup moment in our house and some Belcolade cooking chocolate because supplies are low. I didn’t want this much, and I don’t know the brand, and considering the dust, nobody else does either.

Now all I have to do is finish writing my lecture and not eat the Kool Mints before the end of next week. I wonder if they’d be tax deductible?

A Trip to Tempe

We were actually going to IKEA. I hadn’t been to the big one at Tempe before. So when my good friend and neighbour requested my services as sidekick I was more than happy to oblige.

I don’t know that they’ve achieved anything over the smaller store at Rhodes. Acres of fairly cheap looking fabric. Much cardboard furniture that’s good for if no one will see it or you’ll only need it until you find somewhere permanent to live. The odd dozing boyfriend on a bed or lounge. Many shelves that will never attach to the plaster of my walls, composed as it is of sand and a century of paint, laid over diamond hard brick. An assortment of jars and containers I know from experience aren’t water, air or moth tight. I was uninspired.

I did pick up some cheap Christmas wrap and a set of biscuit cutters that will feature in a blog in the near future. And it was mildly entertaining. But it was what my friend, let’s call her Daniela, said next that made my day. “You know the Pepe Saya factory is in Tempe. Do you want to see if we can find it?”.

You know how I feel about Pepe Saya butter. It’s revolutionised my pastry making. As it’s expensive (not for what it is mind), I save it for best. You betcha I wanted to see if we could find it, even it wasn’t open to the public. I looked it up on Google maps. It appeared to be right next door to IKEA. A quick glance out of the car park showed that the shortcut would have involved scaling a set of quite fresh looking barbed wire fences. If only we’d bought one of those ten dollar throws that don’t appear to have any other use! But we must not repine. “Let’s go around the long way”, I suggested. “It’s just a block”.

Quite a large block, as it turned out. Down a little street lined by nondescript factories, skip bins and badly parked trucks on one side, tiny weatherboard houses from the past on the other. “Is it really down here?” asked Daniela. “It doesn’t look like anything and we’ve walked a really long way. We should have driven. Why didn’t we drive? Lucky I didn’t go to the gym today, I’d never have made it this far.” Down an even smaller street and right at the end was quite a tiny sign for a whole lot of gourmet dairy businesses. And Pepe Saya’s. Up a steep driveway littered with boxes and more apparently abandoned trucks and white vans and pallets and a forklift.

It was just a small glass door, behind which was a set of stairs. “Maybe it isn’t open to the public” I said. “I’m ringing them,” said the ever resourceful Daniela. As she pulled out her phone, the roller door opened to admit the forklift. A young man with very blue eyes started guiding it in. “Erm”, I said. “Do you sell to the public?” asked Daniela. “Of course, come on in, have a look around, there’s a fridge just behind there”, the young man said.

We wandered in. There was a fridge, as advised, looking like the sort of the thing the school canteen might have put in the cleanup. It had a couple of containers of creme fraiche, a pat or two of the familiar foil wrapped butter and not much else. We got chatting with the young man about dairy products and baking. He clearly knew his stuff, and I found out why when one of the forklift guys called out “hey, Pepe!”. Lucky I hadn’t realised who he was when we started chatting, otherwise I would have confined myself to “erm”.

We bought three containers of creme fraiche, a litre of buttermilk, Daniela got a pat of butter and I bought myself a two kilo wheel of butter. I’ve been feeling some baking coming on for quite some time and two kilos was the wholesale amount. It’s a beautiful thing too, lovingly shaped, wrapped in waxed paper, tied up with string and tightly sealed in cling wrap.

“You have to look after it” Pepe said. That didn’t involve reading it a bedtime story, as it turned out, just wrapping it up tightly every time you use it. “How far are you from home?” he asked. Daniela explained that we weren’t far, but we had undertaken the hazardous and windswept walk all the way from the IKEA car park. So he gave us a styrofoam box and lovingly loaded up his produce, tucking an ice pack in with it. We left him to look after his half tonne of freshly delivered fresh cream.

Having bought the bulk of the stuff, I gallantly offered to be the one to carry it back. I wasn’t met with any resistance.

Oh, do I have big plans for this stuff. Ice cream, fruit cake, shortbread, little tarts. I’ve started on the butter already, carefully wrapping it back up again so I can be worthy of it. It’s so FRESH! I don’t really like the taste of the cultured butter straight off a knife but because it’s so fresh the cultured flavour is only just a hint. That’s it, I’m going to have to go to Tempe every time I go through two kilos of butter. At the wholesale price and with Christmas coming up, that’s going to be quite often.

Knife Shopping

Don’t make me talk about when my favourite knife died. You can find it in the archives. It involved sorbet. And epic foolishness on my part. Foolish foolish foolish. I need to let it go, that lesson is learned, and now I need a new knife.

I had blocked out today to wait for the shower screen guys, but as they managed to turn up twenty four hours early I was free to accept a kind invitation from a neighbour to chase her around the Bay then go on an excursion to Peters of Kensington. Exactly the emporium from which I had been planning to buy my new knife.

I do love Peters of Kensington. There’s a ton of stuff there, you need to go around four or five times to absorb the amount of stock you’re being presented with. Avoid looking up in the section with the expensive porcelain figures, there’s a really creepy clown perched above the shelves. We stopped at the little cafe for refreshments. It was full of the elderly taking tea, Rosemary Clooney crooning about whatever will be will be, we had to get up to the knife section before we were tempted to buy velvet cushions and book in for hip replacements.

It was a very serious knife section. I was pretty sure that I wanted exactly what I had last time, a sixteen centimetre Wusthoff chefs knife. My friend had just bought a Shun knife and was very impressed by it. So sharp she was worried she’d lose a finger, or slice right through her kitchen bench. I should at least have a look at one. The serious sales assistant unlocked the display and very gently laid the knife in front of me. I felt like I should swish and flick and bring down rolls of dusty wands. I did swish it a bit, but it has a very straight handle, it didn’t nestle in my hand like the Wusthoff. Then the serious lady started singing the praises of the knife, it was outrageously sharp, but very delicate. “You couldn’t cut pumpkin with it”, she said. “Or anything with a bone, you could chip the knife”. “And you can’t sharpen it with a steel, the angle is different to European knives. You have to get it sharpened professionally”. I got the feeling she didn’t really want to sell it. I hefted the Wusthoff. Ah, that’s the one. “I’ll take this, plus a paring knife”, I said. “Great! You know they’ll sharpen it for free. You can write to them and they’ll send you a reply paid envelope and you can post it to them. They’re in Perth. They’ll send it straight back. You’ll only be without your knife for two weeks. Oh, and I’ll have these knives sent downstairs for you”. What, you wouldn’t trust me to carry them downstairs? I did wonder if she was in the right profession at all.

We had a bit of time before the car was towed, so Ho for my favourite section, the gadgets. I spent a bit of time in front of this, saying to myself “I don’t need it, I don’t need it…”

With heroic self restraint I avoided buying it, which meant I had none left when I came across the carrot sharpener. It sharpens carrots!

I believe the idea is to create lavish curls of carrot for your fancy salads. But the excellent side effect is… Weaponised Carrots!

I’ve got my new knife home now, and it’s already cut strawberries and carrots and cucumber and capsicum and pork ribs and broccoli and I love it. I promise to hand wash it and replace it in its cardboard sleeve. And I will never let it near sorbet. I promise.


Ah, Newtown

Newtown, I’d love shopping in you a lot more if there was somewhere to leave my car. Yes, I should catch the bus, but some of us haven’t got all day, you know. Kids to drop off, kids to pick up, washing to hang out, afternoon tea to produce, update my resume. Just in case.

It didn’t help that a whole block was taken up by what appeared to be a film rig in front of the Newtown Hotel. I wonder if the neon sign Smokes and Pokes was there for the filming, or if it’s a regular fixture? One never knows in this neck of the woods. You can also never pick who might be a film extra and who’s just a local. Girl with pink hair? Guy with a forked beard? School kid with dreadlocks? I’m going with local for all three.

Any trip to Newtown starts with a pilgrimage to Campos Coffee. Not one of those ones you see springing up all over the place. The original and the best.

Though I didn’t find it had its usual effect of taking the skin off my throat and causing my ears to ring. Perhaps they’re watering it down. It was still rich and satisfying.

I was going to make my first stop Pentimento, but they had a snarky sign up saying don’t you bring that coffee in here you clumsy plebeian. So moved on to the marvellous Elizabeth’s Bookshop where I found the girl with whom my sister has had her longest friendship. See what I avoided there? Rachel Ann (not her real name) was busy in the dark arts of the second hand bookseller, sanding the edges of the yellowing books, risking her health with the older ones that have been impregnated with arsenic, and polishing them with Spray’n’Wipe. Where’s the mystique? I chewed the fat with her a little and exchanged pleasantries with her colleague Roger, a very cute little black doggie. More shops should have doggies in them. I’m only looking for two things in second hand book shops, early editions of Wodehouse and elderly cookbooks. I struck gold, there was a facsimile copy of the 1902 edition of Mrs Beeton’s book of Household Management for a very bargain price. Who would let go of such a thing?

Rachel Ann said “if you like that, check this out”, hauling out from behind the desk an ORIGINAL of the thing, massive, dusty and leather bound. Laid by at three hundred and fifty smackers. I’m glad I didn’t have to choose whether to buy that.

I had to move on because my actual motive for visiting Newtown was to get some inspiration for the Horror’s birthday present. Putting together all of the things he likes, he is actually into steam punk without knowing what it is. He has a fob watch and a little brass folding telescope. Rachel Ann suggested Monster Threads for steam punk, and a very fine shop it is too. I really liked a lot of the clothes in there and there was certainly a steam punk aesthetic among the adornments but they were more for girls. And adults.

So on to Pentimento. I was rather tempted by the sealing wax and seals, but the Horror doesn’t write letters. He should, his great grandma would love some, but he can’t get past I’m fine, how are you? They have gorgeous cards and wrapping paper, soaps and lotions, a basket of Fair Trade string.

Not sure what you’d do with that, possibly tie up the top of your homemade marmalade with a piece of Japanese paper to be a whole lot more Inner West than the passè brown string and gingham. They also have ironic homewares and a selection of glossy books, some of which make me think that the local milieu has changed somewhat since the time that I lived here.

I ended up getting some organic washing implements.

The one that looks like a toilet brush is for the Thermomix, the lenticular one is for scrubbing potatoes and the nail brush will look lovely on the side of the new bath even after removing chunks of soccer field from the Horror’s knees. Then I saw another snarky sign warning mummy bloggers not to take photos, so I slunk out.

My parking time was up, even though there was much left to explore. I reluctantly betook myself to a soulless mall at which I purchased a size twelve waistcoat with a pocket for the Horror’s fob watch and one for his rather unsatisfactory plastic monocle. That’s a start. He’s been wearing a waistcoat that my mother bought for herself in 1983 and has been complaining about the lack of pockets. I wonder where you can buy top hats?

The Source – Balmain

I can take a hint. When every second person who’s read my blog or lives in Balmain tells me I should definitely visit The Source, all that is required is for me to gather a posse and form a foodie excursion.

I’m extremely reluctant to drive in Balmain, almost every time I go there I get lost or can’t find a parking spot anywhere in the suburb and have to retreat back to more car friendly climes. So I’m pleased to have a volunteer from the posse drive while I crochet in the back. Don’t worry, you’ll be hearing about the crochet shortly. It’s down the further end of Darling Street, you go through that bit that looks like it has a lot of shops, the they die off and you worry that you’ve missed it, then they start building up again and it’s just past Zumbo’s. We found a park next to a temperamental parking meter and we were there.

Not to keep you in suspense, I’m going to be coming here a lot. Oh, I have my quibbles. The good stuff is available in three rows of bins, one flat and two on an angle. The angled ones have the rather annoying feature that their lids don’t open very far. You secure your scoop, grab a paper bag and carefully write the product code on it for ease of processing at the checkout, then have to prop the lid open with a spare elbow as you attempt to transfer the stuff from the bin into the bag without spilling it all over your vegan shoes. There doesn’t appear to be a scoop for the spices. There’s a whole row of bins devoted to sweets, and you’d think us buy stuff in paper bags types would be making those ourselves.

But goodness, it has everything my homespun heart could desire. Nuts, dried fruit, grains, seeds, pulses, spices, oils and syrups. It’s quite a small shop, so it must be a bit hard to take on weekends. I’m getting the feeling that this movement is gaining momentum, does it even have a name? Pure food, clean food (that sounds very gimmicky, like eating paleo which strikes me as a ridiculous description given our limited knowledge of what the paleo diet really was), made from scratch? Real food? I’m going with real food.

I just got a few things. I’ve just run out of Honest to Goodness muesli, so I bought some stuff to make my own. Five grain mix, dried pear, currants, dried pawpaw (it has a gingery flavour), raw almonds. Organic couscous! I also got seven vanilla beans so I can start off another giant bottle of vanilla essence.

It takes about a year to be usable, I should get cracking on the next one.
I got some glass jars to store my ever expanding collection of raw ingredients. I also got a jar of maple syrup, dark and fragrant, and one of rice malt syrup. I was a little disappointed with the flavour, not very malty at all. I’ve put it in a banana smoothie, and it makes me think it’s intended to be used as a sweetener rather than a source of malt flavour. It’s nice enough. I’ll be able to use it instead of honey in baked goods for the Horror, he can pick even a trace of honey. I like that they put the country of origin on the bins, was a bit surprised that the raw sugar was from Brazil. So when I got home I looked at my raw sugar packet and sure enough, Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients! Surely we can make raw sugar here.

I was fascinated by some of the stuff in bins. What on earth would you do with bee pollen? A $90 a kilo, that bin would have been worth thousands of dollars. And the hemp seeds with the instructions “not to be eaten”. I’m surprised they didn’t add a >. emoticon. I’m very keen for some Himalayan bath salts IF I EVER GET A BATH!!!! Ahem.

So it looks like I’m going to have to learn to drive to and in Balmain. Because it’s unlikely I’m going to be able to form a weekly posse, and anyway it gets expensive because you have to have lunch and coffee after. I wish they’d open a branch in my suburb, all the local Chamber of Commerce allows in our main street is hairdressers and pizza shops. Some of which are very good, mind you. But if I could walk up to get my supplies in biodegradable paper bags I’d be so dark green as to be almost pure chlorophyll. Ah well.

Craft and Quilt Show

You’d think with the number of unfinished projects I have going that the last thing I should do is go to a craft show. I’ve got two unfinished handbags, one started immediately after the last Craft and Quilt Show, a knitted strap for one of the handbags, two necklaces on the go and a vintage velvet dress that needs altering. I was very firm with myself yesterday and made myself finish one thing before loading up with more craft. I bought a vintage brocade jacket and last week’s farmers market and I spent twenty minutes yesterday taking it in so it didn’t look so much like a curtain with sleeves. I thought it would take much longer, I’m extremely pleased with it and wore it today. One can never have enough craft.

Also the planets were aligned. The bathroom chaps have decided to have yet another day off before being able to psych themselves up sufficiently to screw the vanity to the wall. I had a doctors’s appointment in the morning very close to the light rail station. I’ve been given instructions on how to make an easy beanie using a gauge of wool and needles that I just don’t have. I need a little more embellishment for my unfinished handbags. It was meant to be. The only thing that slowed me down a little was the doctor surprised my whipping out a horse sized needle and giving me another cortisone injection to the ankle. Of all the enormous variety of needles I’ve had stuck in me, the ones on the bone are my very least favourite. I decided to ignore my whimpering joint and press on.

The Craft and Quilt show has become the biggest of the craft events during the year. I hear that the Bead and Gem show isn’t even going ahead in Sydney this year, it seems that beading is in decline. There was a small selection of beading shops at the show, but I’m pretty happy with my US suppliers and am well stocked up at the moment, so only gave them a cursory glance. Fibres, scrap booking and quilting is what this show’s about, and look at the queue!

That wasn’t even opening time. Apparently when females retire, they join a choir and take up a craft, then come to these shows. I’m a bit ahead of myself.

Did you know there are craft guilds! They had stalls here today.

Smockers, machine knitters, calligraphers, spinners (with an actual spinning wheel!), take your pick. I can’t, I’m somewhat promiscuous in my crafting. I have decided that I’d rather like to learn to crochet, so I picked up some books on that. Wow, there are a lot of crafting books. I almost bought a fabulous looking book on how to make handbags, but when the introductory list of what equipment you need went over two pages I put it down, feeling rather inadequate. I think I’ll continue to wing it in that department and cover up imperfections with embellishments. There were books on cake decorating and knitting flowers, and sewing outfits for your dog, most of them very specific. Ideal for the crowd here.

I particularly like the range of fibres on offer at this show. Fat quarters do nothing for me, and my sewing isn’t yet at a stage where I’ll need anything I can’t get at Spotlight. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot less haberdashers around the place than there used to be and it’s very difficult to find a shop where you can buy quality wool. At the show there was possum wool, alpaca, merino, silk and cotton, multicoloured, fluffy, that funny one you knit into spirals, metallic crochet thread (next year), imported, homespun and every colour. I got the knitting needles I need for the beanie, a crochet needle from Prudence Mapstone herself, and three kinds of twelve ply wool.

Now where do I start? Should I be disciplined and at least finish the black and white necklace? Surely crocheting one Afghan square wont hurt. Or doing a test beanie with wool I already have, rather than this fancy new wool. I’ll put off the decision til tomorrow and meanwhile roll one of the skeins into a ball.

I’ll have plenty of time tomorrow, my ankle tells me we’re not going anywhere for a couple of days.

The Inner West Market Experience

I feel very left wing going to the markets. Nuts to you, big corporations, I’m cutting out the middle man! I don’t get to go very often, Orange Grove Markets are on Saturday mornings which generally coincides exactly with four or five sporting fixtures. Not this weekend, though, so once I’ve settled the tiler and his apprentice in, I’m away.

I am a bit fascinated by the stalls. I used to have a semi regular market stall myself, selling handmade jewellery, which usually did very poorly, but I had a wonderful time watching my fellow stall holders. At Orange Grove they are mostly food stalls. Lots of fruit and veg, all of which seem to be doing well. Some are organic and I’ve found the quality of their produce to be variable. There’s one stall I particularly like, run by a bunch of youngsters that look like they may share a commune, because their fruit and veg looks a lot like it hasn’t come from a factory and they have stuff you don’t see anywhere else. I got some pink baby carrots, some purple pears and some really tiny Fuji apples from them.

There are a few stalls selling dips and condiments that don’t seem to do very well. How many dips do you need in a week? Also, if I want a dip or a condiment I can make it myself, I may have mentioned that I have a Thermomix. The bread and baked good stalls do well. There are two smoked seafood operations, obviously a growing market. I never see anyone buying the tapioca desserts. The egg and bacon roll stall is ridiculously successful, with a line that snakes around the market.

The non food stalls have mixed success. I feel sorry for the silver and gemstones jewellery lady, there’s never anyone even stopping to look. She doesn’t have prices displayed, which puts me off. There’s also a lady with racks of what looks like hand made kids’ tunics, no ones stopping there either. The stall that looks like someone’s been through the dumpster at the back of a failing hardware shop attracts a steady stream of elderly men in hats, looking for the perfect pair of shop soiled secateurs. The hemp stall seems to do well. I’ve bought the hemp soap a few times, it’s very lovely but soft, it doesn’t last very long. I’m going to buy some when I have a new bathroom, whenever that may be. There was a vintage clothes stall there that I haven’t seen before. I bought a brocade jacket there because it was my colour, but a bit large around the waist. I could move the buttons, or take it in, it isn’t lined.

Muffet said “no offence, but that’s an old lady jacket”. Well then, no offence taken.

I’m actually there for the Honest to Goodness stall. I get the five grain mix for my porridge, on the advice of a friend, sultanas and currants for all the fruit loaf I’m making at the moment, and they don’t have ginger at the stall, only at their unappealing showroom. That’s a shame, I’ve got an ultra ginger loaf that I really want to make.

And this is the thing about the markets. It’s hard to do a regular shop there, you just don’t know what’s not going to be there. This is far outweighed by seeing what’s in season (silver beet and radishes at the moment), having access to extremely fresh produce, supporting small businesses and sticking it to the man. Can’t wait to go back.